Passport - (Page P33)

Destination Diary Africa By Melissa Burdick Harmon From luxurious tented safaris to champagne tastings Africa offers scintillating choices. Its superb convention centers and hotels draw major meetings. Its vineyards and game parks and many-miles-long beaches lure incentive groups. North Africa offers different delights, with captivating blends of cultures. South Africa is top of mind with travel professionals right now, as they prepare to depart for the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) 2009 International Destination Expo in Sun City. Their interest in visiting South Africa this March is not surprising, given the country’s popularity. In 2007 alone, 9.1 million foreign visitors arrived in this very varied destination. Next year, even more travelers will head to magical South Africa—a mix of sleek cities, luxurious safari camps, dramatic scenery, and postcard-perfect beaches. Many will be there to attend the 2010 FIFA World Cup, which will be held in 10 stadiums tucked in virtually every corner of the country. Right now, that means that South Africa is in the midst of a major building boom—putting up the soccer arenas, plus thousands of new hotel rooms and restaurants, while polishing all of its existing tourist amenities to a shine. The new stadiums—in areas as diverse as Port Elizabeth and Tshwane/Pretoria, the northern town of Polokwane and the graceful city of Cape Town—will remain long after the last goal has been scored, providing a powerful new meeting infrastructure. Of course, South Africa is already a mature meetings destination. It has hosted, among thousands of events, the world’s largest conference—The World Summit on Sustainable Development—in 2002. Its Cape Town Convention Centre is continually booked. The International Convention Centre in Durban, with its adjacent Durban Morocco Exhibition Centre can accommodate groups as large as 10,000. The Sandton Convention Centre, in suburban Johannesburg boasts 236,000 square feet of meeting and exhibition space. South Africa Groups don’t have to stick to the cities either. South Africa’s sophisticated network of safari lodges offers perfect incentive and small executive meeting accommodations. One, Phinda Private Game Reserve, located on 56,800 acres of game-rich land, can accommodate groups in six different, equally luxurious, game lodges. The Western Cape Wine Country also has a track record for top-tier small meetings, held in cozy properties such as the Steenberg Hotel, just minutes away from world-class restaurants. North Africa: Magical Meetings in Marrakech The glorious “pink city” of Marrakech blooms in the North African desert, rich with graceful gardens and in the shadow of towering mountains. Its medina, or market, is packed with genuine bargains (if you shop with care). Its restaurants are some of the finest in Africa, and its Djemaa El Fna Square roils with excitement every evening. There, attendees can see everything from snake handlers to water sellers to the man who makes his living interpreting dreams. The city’s blend of Berber and French culture makes everything from menus to minarets to market stalls seem exotic. Its hotels are among the best in the world. This spring, the legendary La Mamounia will reopen after an extensive renovation. The new 206-room Kempinski Royal Hotel Marrakech will also open this year, just steps from the Royal Palace. It will feature extensive meeting and conference facilities. I Successful Meetings/MeetingNews/Incentive / MARCH 2009 33

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Passport

Destination Diary Europe
Americas and the Caribbean
Charting Their Course
Show Me the Money