Prince Albert II of Monaco married former South African Olympic swimmer Charlene Wittstock in July in Monte Carlo. Reception festivities took place in the Monte Carlo Opera House, available for group events. In anticipation of the nuptials, over $131 million was spent upgrading and renovating the many opulent venues operated by the Prinicipality-owned Monte-Carlo SBM group.
Due to the size and breadth of the collection, we spoke to Cathleen Kelley, director of group sales, to get a grasp of the wide-ranging and highly creative scope of the collection.
The group includes three 5-star properties: Hotel de Paris, Hotel Hermitage and Monte Carlo Beach, as well as the 4-star Monte Carlo Bay Hotel & Resort. The Hermitage received the bulk of renovation work and reopened this spring with a nod to the Belle Epoque, combined with high-tech group space.
“Hotel Hermitage is modern and classic at the same time, and each room is individually designed,” says Kelley. She proudly notes the new Le Vistamar restaurant won a Michelin star, saying, “The executive chef meets with the same family of fishermen every morning to purchase fish just out of the boat.”
The new Salle Eiffel is a design marvel because engineers had to dig straight down into bedrock to build the new function room, seating up to 340 pax with eight translation booths and an executive staff who “understand all cultural needs.”
Both the Hermitage and Hotel de Paris connect directly to the massive 8-floor, 70,000-sf Thermes Marins spa, with four doctors on staff. We like the 600,000-bottle wine cellar—the largest in the world—which supplies SBM’s 30 restaurants. It is available for small group tours and tastings.
While the Hermitage bridges the modern and classic, the other two top-end properties are firmly planted on either side of the fence. Opened in 1863, the 182-room Hotel de Paris is an automatic in any conversation about the world’s most glamorous historic hotels. It’s attached to the legendary Monte Carlo Casino, and the 3-Michelin star Louis XV restaurant is chef Alain Ducasse’s proudest achievement. The Provençale squab breast with foie gras from Chalosse looks good
The 54-room Monte Carlo Beach, meanwhile, derives its inspiration from the Roaring 20s when it was born. The contemporary artwork in the guestrooms is painted right on the walls, and Kelley says the pool deck is “big with groups for Great Gatsby parties.”
The Monaco Government Tourist Office (MGTO) is quick to note that there are many new options that target the next generation of meeting and incentive attendees.
The two new restaurant/nightclubs, Paris-based Buddha Bar Monte Carlo and Motown-themed Black Legend Monaco, made big waves last year with their ultra hip, culture jammer attitudes. Both rent space with live DJ’s and cool canapes for a night on the town with music ranging from techno ambient to Aretha Franklin.
“We have a lot of history but we’re also looking to the future,” says Cindy Hoddeson, director of meeting & incentive sales, MGTO. She mention’s Monaco’s aggressive sustainability initiatives, which are of personal importance to His Royal Highness.
“Prince Albert II created a foundation to look at climate change, clean water and biodiversity…, and there’s a long legacy of outdoor adventure and earthcare in Monaco. All public transport is electric, bio-fuel or hybrid, and we have one of the first convention centers in the world designed to recirculate seawater.”
Curious about Hotel Metropole Monte Carlo, which is the only independent hotel in the city, we met up with Jesus Scott, international sales manager. The 141-room property, with 64 suites, was built in 1889, and the interior design reflects a delicate balance between glamour and glam, if you know what we mean.
“Hotel Metropole attracts a younger crowd because it’s more hip and unstuffy,” says Scott. “You don’t have to wear Chanel or Versace to come here.”
Interior designer Jacques Garcia sums it up: “The hotel’s public spaces feel like a real home where one can settle in, eat and drink, read and receive friends. The basic concept stems from the idea of a rock star interacting with a duchess.”
Scott explains that U.S. groups make up the largest percentage of Metropole’s meetings business. He says many like to create fashion shows in the lobby, 3,000 sf of function space, or at Buddha Bar just a few steps from the front door.
Star chef Joel Robuchon oversees the kitchens, including his first Japanese restaurant, Yoshi. Groups can dine on a signature dish of foie gras and grilled eel millefeuille, either inside the sharply modern space or outside in the Japanese garden.
For spring 2012, Karl Lagerfeld is redoing the pool.