Spain Sets the Style for European Meetings

Jaw-dropping views and eye-catching architecture make this country a hit with attendees

Tossa de Mar on the Costa Brava

More than an international destination, Spain is a community of micro-nations, a galaxy of Michelin stars, a hotbed of modern design, and -- most of all -- the mother ship of a vast global culture. For planners who have yet to bring attendees here, Barcelona and Madrid are the places to start. For old Iberian hands, however, it's time to branch out and discover the up-and-coming cities of Seville and Malaga.


Barcelona
The chief city of the Catalonia region, Barcelona is a striking cultural destination that is easily accessible by ground and metro transportation. Thanks to the IBTM (formerly EIBTM) trade show, held here each November, planners of international events are very familiar with this remarkable city. "Barcelona is among the top worldwide-ranked cities in the world when it comes to large congresses such as the Mobile World Congress (100,000 participants), and the European Society of Cardiology Annual Conference (30,000 participants)," says Cecile Dorian, international promotion manager for the Barcelona Convention Bureau. "The same is true for smaller but equally impacting corporate events and incentives in all industries: IT, automotive, finance, medical, and pharma."

The city has four major convention venues: the Barcelona International Convention Centre, the Palau de Congressos de Catalunya, the Fira de Barcelona (featuring the Fira Montjuic and the Fira Gran Via), and the World Trade Center. In addition to large meeting hotels like the 432-room Fairmont Rey Juan Carlos I, which has approximately 64,000 square feet of meeting space and an auditorium for up to 2,000 attendees, Barcelona is currently a boom town for boutique conversions and new builds. Expected to open soon are the 48-room H10 Casa Mimosa (sister property to the 101-room H10 Cubik), with meeting space located in a former coach house; the Soho House Barcelona, a private club but with availability for hosting events; the 84-room Monument; and the 94-room Ohla Eixample.  

"We are expecting the opening of the 100-room Barcelona Edition (by Marriott and Ian Schrager) in Barcelona's old quarter," sometime in 2017, says Dorian. "The brand Me by Melia is expected to open a five-star, 173-room property by the end of 2017, right off the famous Passeig de Gracia, one block from Placa Catalunya."

Airlift is also expanding. "In 2016, United opened two new direct flights to Barcelona, from Chicago and Washington, D.C.," notes Dorian. "American Airlines will also soon have a direct flight from Chicago to Barcelona. And finally, the low-cost carrier Norwegian is starting new, direct lines from Oakland, CA, to Barcelona, as well as from New York, Los Angeles, and Miami."
Madrid
The capital of Spain is a cosmopolitan destination that fans out in all directions from its historic center. Like London and Paris (and Barcelona), Madrid has architecture that dates from the Middle Ages right up to the present, as well as an extensive underground train system (Metro de Madrid) that makes getting around the city fairly easy.

The city's chief exhibition venue is the 2.15 million-square-foot IFEMA -- Feria de Madrid, but there are several hotel properties throughout the city for small, mid-sized, and even large meetings. Among the largest is the 869-room Madrid Marriott Auditorium Hotel & Conference Center (formerly Hotel Auditorium Madrid), which was renovated early this year. The hotel's conference center features nearly 167,000 square feet of event space, with an auditorium that can host up to 2,000 guests. Complimentary high-speed Internet is offered throughout the entire hotel, including public areas and guest rooms.

Off-site venues recently added to Madrid's inventory include the Teatro Goya, a performance venue with several room configurations and space to host up to 1,500 guests. Then there is Platia, which can be rented for launches and corporate parties. "Food court" doesn't begin to describe its almost 65,000-square-foot, multilevel atrium of eateries, bars, and a DJ-amped nightclub -- but you get the idea. For teambuilding in Madrid, the Tourist Office of Spain suggests that having attendees cook their own paella in the kitchens of Hotel Melia's L'Albufera is a memorable experience worth considering.

An hour outside of Madrid, the city of Toledo features the El Greco Conference Centre, which offers nearly 27,000 square feet of modern meeting space in a historic and picturesque city.


Further Afield
In Seville, the chief city of Andalucia, the recently debuted FIBES II at the Seville Convention Center is a modern marvel of steel, concrete, and glass that is adjacent to the more conventional FIBES I; together they comprise more than 300,000 square feet of meetings and exhibit space -- plus, an auditorium that can accommodate 3,200 attendees. Another remarkable structure, the Metropol Parasol, is often used for outdoor events, which can shelter under its mushroom-like ceiling. For other off-site events and activities in Andalucia, the Tourist Office of Spain recommends setting up for cocktails in a cortijo, or country house, where attendees may learn how to "fight" (but not harm) a baby bull, or witness a horse dancing with a beautiful lady wearing a flamenco dress.

In Malaga, the new five-star, 200-room Gran Hotel Miramar is expected to debut in 2017 with more than 20,500 square feet of meeting space in 19 rooms -- the largest of which can accommodate 700 people.  



Questions or comments? Email [email protected]



This article appears in the October 2016 issue of Successful Meetings.

ESSENTIAL Tool Box
CONVENTION CENTERS & FACILITIES
Fira de Madrid (2.15 million sf)
Fira de Barcelona (4.3 million sf)

WHERE TO…
MEET - Barcelona
Aside from having four massive convention centers, Barcelona is a vibrant city with one of the most intriguing collections of architecture in the world, blending influences from Italy and France with a distinctly local twist. Works from Antoni Gaudí to Jean Nouvel must be seen to be believed.

STAY - Madrid Marriott Auditorium Hotel & Conference Center
The 869-room Madrid Marriott Auditorium Hotel & Conference Center (formerly Hotel Auditorium Madrid), is the largest Marriott in Spain, with more than 236,000 square feet of meeting space and 82 event venues for groups to use.

SEE - Guggenheim Bilbao
This stunning, Frank Gehry-designed building houses the work of Spanish and international artists, and offers a range of private tours for groups.


Madrid
The capital of Spain is a cosmopolitan destination that fans out in all directions from its historic center. Like London and Paris (and Barcelona), Madrid has architecture that dates from the Middle Ages right up to the present, as well as an extensive underground train system (Metro de Madrid) that makes getting around the city fairly easy.

The city's chief exhibition venue is the 2.15 million-square-foot IFEMA -- Feria de Madrid, but there are several hotel properties throughout the city for small, mid-sized, and even large meetings. Among the largest is the 869-room Madrid Marriott Auditorium Hotel & Conference Center (formerly Hotel Auditorium Madrid), which was renovated early this year. The hotel's conference center features nearly 167,000 square feet of event space, with an auditorium that can host up to 2,000 guests. Complimentary high-speed Internet is offered throughout the entire hotel, including public areas and guest rooms.

Off-site venues recently added to Madrid's inventory include the Teatro Goya, a performance venue with several room configurations and space to host up to 1,500 guests. Then there is Platia, which can be rented for launches and corporate parties. "Food court" doesn't begin to describe its almost 65,000-square-foot, multilevel atrium of eateries, bars, and a DJ-amped nightclub -- but you get the idea. For teambuilding in Madrid, the Tourist Office of Spain suggests that having attendees cook their own paella in the kitchens of Hotel Melia's L'Albufera is a memorable experience worth considering.

An hour outside of Madrid, the city of Toledo features the El Greco Conference Centre, which offers nearly 27,000 square feet of modern meeting space in a historic and picturesque city.


Further Afield
In Seville, the chief city of Andalucia, the recently debuted FIBES II at the Seville Convention Center is a modern marvel of steel, concrete, and glass that is adjacent to the more conventional FIBES I; together they comprise more than 300,000 square feet of meetings and exhibit space -- plus, an auditorium that can accommodate 3,200 attendees. Another remarkable structure, the Metropol Parasol, is often used for outdoor events, which can shelter under its mushroom-like ceiling. For other off-site events and activities in Andalucia, the Tourist Office of Spain recommends setting up for cocktails in a cortijo, or country house, where attendees may learn how to "fight" (but not harm) a baby bull, or witness a horse dancing with a beautiful lady wearing a flamenco dress.

In Malaga, the new five-star, 200-room Gran Hotel Miramar is expected to debut in 2017 with more than 20,500 square feet of meeting space in 19 rooms -- the largest of which can accommodate 700 people.  



Questions or comments? Email [email protected]



This article appears in the October 2016 issue of Successful Meetings.