Culture Trends Q+A 2011: Cathleen Williams, SBM Hotels

Prevue asked Cathleen Williams, MonteCarlo SBM Hotels’ director of sales, her thoughts on culture trends for 2011.

Q: What are examples of highly creative and/or culturally themed group events that highlight the destination?
A: In the landmark Salle Belle Epoque, Hotel Hermitage hosts a magnificent gala ball with drinks on the terrace and a five-course dinner, followed by dancing. White glove service helps recreate an elegant evening from the 1800s.

On the Mediterranean seafront at the Monte-Carlo Beach Hotel, flappers and their beaus can dine and dance until the wee hours at a private Roaring 1920s Beach Party, reliving the sparkle of the jazz era.

Q: Are you seeing more interest from planners seeking to add culture-oriented components to their programs?
A: We find that planners are eager to learn about the local cuisine and incorporate it into their program. Beyond the dining, we help group and event organizers create an itinerary that treats their delegates with the same personal attention as luxury individual travelers. This can include securing opera tickets, concert tickets, private yacht rentals, wine tasting tours in nearby vineyards, etc.

Q: Are there certain festivals during the year that can build in ROI for a group program?
A: During our mild Mediterranean winter, we can offer our most friendly prices when planners coincide their group programs with celebrations such as The Monte Carlo Jazz Festival in November and The Circus of Monte Carlo. For higher budget groups, add value by scheduling group programs during Grand Prix. Our flagship Hotel de Paris overlooks the famous race course.

At any time of the year, in between festivals, groups can create more impact-per-dollar when organizing events within the renowned Casino de Monte Carlo. This historic building, with a reputation linked to fame and fortune, is available for one-of-a-kind private cocktail parties.

Q: Please describe some popular themed special events that tie into local culture.
A: Music is an important part of Monaco’s culture. Notable options are the Monte Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra, the Summer Concert Series at the Sporting Club and Winter season at Monte Carlo Opera House.

Wine discovery and appreciation is also an important local theme. Monte Carlo’s legendary wine cellar is located within Monte-Carlo SBM’s Hotel de Paris, featuring more than 600,000 bottles. Small private dinners can be held in the cellar, which was chosen by Prince Rainier and Princess Grace to celebrate their 25th Wedding Anniversary.

Some very appealing hands-on group activities include perfume-making classes, blindfolded wine-tasting competitions and art instruction classes.

Q: Where is one place you take friends/family when they’re in town that planners should know about?
A: One thing our friends from the U.S. always ask for—anything having to do with the lifestyle of Grace Kelly!