When the 268-room Conrad Cartagena opened late last year in Colombia, meeting planners probably weren’t expecting that groups would be encouraged to go to prison for dinner.
While South American prisons have peaked the interest of tourists in the past—tours of San Pedro prison in La Paz, Bolivia come to mind—taking an actual tour has either been illegal or complicated to play out, but a recent partnership between the Conrad Cartagena and Interno restaurant urges attendees to take a step inside the San Diego’s Women Prison for an unexpected dining experience.
The restaurant employs the inmates as kitchen and front-of-house staff, giving them an opportunity to reintegrate back into society. The idea behind the program is that building relationships between the inmates, the local population and travelers will help empower them. Plus, they gain the skills required to work in a restaurant, and all proceeds from the restaurant go straight back to the pockets of the inmates and their families. Groups looking to meet at the restaurant will also find the cuisine to be authentic to Colombia, with fresh fish, ceviche and roasted coconut salsa on the menu.
The experience is part of the hotel’s 1/3/5 program that offers groups hyperlocal excursions that last one, three or five hours and helps attendees “Stay Inspired” in between meeting in the property’s 13,000 sf of meeting space. Some of the longer five-hour excursions include sailing to the nearby Islas del Rosario, a coral-reef archipelago made up of 26 islands or taking a walking history tour of Cartagena’s dramatic (and sometimes dark) past.