Mediterranean Incentives: Tee off on the Med's top fairways

Warm summers and mild winters are ideal for year-round golf. With 55 golf courses, the Costa del Sol is the golfing capital of the Med, and the south of Spain is continuing to attract new golf developments.

The 107-room La Cala Resort in Mijas, 20 minutes from Marbella, became the only resort on the Costa del Sol with three 18-hole championship courses when it opened its third course in March this year.

Golf is the focus of two new Starwood hotels on the Costa Blanca: the Sheraton Real de Faula Golf Resort & Spa and the Westin Real de Faula Golf Resort & Spa, both of which are scheduled to open in July. Guests will have priority on two Jack Nicklaus-designed 18-hole golf courses currently under development by Xeresa Golf. When ready, amenities will include one championship course, one executive course and a golf school.

In conjunction with Polaris World Development, Intercontinental Hotels Group plans to open three golf resorts in Murcia, Spain: the 64-room Intercontinental Mar Menor Golf Resort, opening at the beginning of 2006, will include a nine-hole golf course; the 200-room Crowne Plaza La Torre Golf Resort, due to open at the end of 2006, will include an 18-hole course, while the 150-room Intercontinental El Valle Golf Resort is due to open in summer 2007 and will include an 18-hole course. The courses were also designed by Jack Nicklaus and the resorts will offer meetings and spa facilities.

A development located between Marbella and Sotogrande, and which includes the new boutique hotel Park Hyatt Casares, is scheduled to open in late 2006, incorporating three 18-hole golf courses.

With one notable exception, golf development beyond Spain is at a relatively slow pace at the moment. Malta has only one golf course - located in Marsa - although there are plans for another to be built on Gozo, while in Cyprus any plans to build more courses are currently being eclipsed by the 6,855-yard, 18-hole championship course at Aphrodite Hills Resort near Paphos.

The course, which opened officially in March, offers the first golfing academy in Cyprus, with resident PGA-qualified professionals available to pass on their knowledge and skills. Designer Cabell Robinson has created a mix of challenging pot bunkers, manicured fairways and tiered greens.

INCENTIVES DMC OPTIONS

CYPRUS

DMC: Palm Conferences & Incentives

Web: www.palmdmc.com.cy

Incentive options: Groups can split into teams for an aqua treasure hunt or boat-building challenge, or, for high-octane adventure, groups of eight to 50 join an off-road rally as driver or co-driver. "Professional instructors promise an exhilarating ride, as you learn basic rally-driving techniques as well as the theory and practice of power slides and handbrake turns," says operations director Olga Xanthou-Kondo.

A more cultural programme involves training in the essence of theatrical tragedy, followed by a drama presented by the group.

MALTA

DMC: SIT (Special Interest Travel)

Web: www.sit.demajo.com

Incentive options: A hi-tech treasure hunt by foot, bike or jeep tests delegates' ability to use different orienteering and navigational devices, while visiting the island's top attractions en route. It caters for up to 20 teams of five. "It is mainly suitable for groups wanting to experience Malta in a fun and exhilarating way," says account executive Stephanie Galea.

FRANCE

DMC: LSO International

Web www.lso-intl.com

Incentive options: Groups of up to 50 VIPs staying at the new Four Seasons in Provence can immerse themselves in the cosmetic and health properties of olives. "After visiting a local market, the group can take a four-wheel drive or elegant vintage car to an olive grove for lunch on the terrace," says director business development Europe Pierre Oudine. Alternatively, half the group takes a helicopter and half travels by speedboat to St Tropez to spend two hours on the beach, then swap transport for the return.

SPAIN

DMC: Cititravel

Web www.cititravel.es

Incentive options: These range from team building at Olympic sites and driving Renault Elf racing cars at Les Comes to paella-making, salsa dancing lessons or even engaging in the regional activity of human-tower building. "We have had a lot of success with the 'fans on arrival' concept," says commercial director Stuart McLauchlan. "Actors are dressed as paparazzi with flashing cameras and screaming fans plead for autographs. Soon a crowd of curious onlookers gathers so that when the group arrives, they feel like movie stars at a Hollywood premier."

GREECE

DMC: Interdynamic

Web www.interdynamic.net

Incentive options: For active groups of ten to 50, a trek down the Samaria Gorge in Crete - one of the three largest in Europe - is rewarded when the walk ends up on the beach. "We need to be flexible and tailor incentives to the group's profile," says marketing and sales director Kostas Kolovos. "We like to find something delegates have not done before."

HOTEL DEVELOPMENTS: ROUND-UP

CYPRUS

This island continues to draw attention to itself, primarily because of the innovative approach adopted by hotel designers over the past few years. The current big news is the opening last month of the Intercontinental Aphrodite Hills Resort Hotel (aphrodite.intercontinental.com). Built at a cost of £38m, the 290-room hotel is located at the heart of the £150m Lanitis Development, Aphrodite Hills Resort, a fully integrated resort offering golf, tennis and a spa.

Meanwhile, £10m has been invested in the total refurbishment of the Four Seasons Resort & Spa in Limassol (www.fourseasons.com.cy). This 304-room, five-star flagship of Muskita Hotels relaunches this month and joins the Great Hotels of the World later in the year. The pillar-free ballroom holds up to 660 people and Jacuzzis have been added to all guestrooms.

July sees the Columbia Beach Hotel (www.columbia-hotels.com) in Pissouri upgrade from a three to four-star, 120-room, low-rise hotel following a £10m investment.

Finally, the Palm Beach Hotel & Bungalows (www.palmbeachhotel.com) has been completely refurbished to provide five-star facilities and a range of state-of-the-art meetings spaces catering for up to 600 theatre-style.

MALTA

The focus is on five stars as Malta adds to its hotel portfolio and targets business and the well-heeled traveller. Heading up the accommodation on Gozo, Malta's little sister island, the 106-room Kempinski San Lawrenz Leisure Resort and Spa (www.kempinski.com) will reopen on 1 May, following a major off-season refurbishment, which will add new facilities and luxury suites. Conference rooms will seat up to 300.

That same month will see the completion of Hotel Fortina Spa Resort (www.hotelfortina.com), the £9.25m five-star, sister hotel of the well established four-star Fortina Hotel, which boasts 53 innovative spa bedrooms, plus the opening of the 168-room Maritim Antonine Hotel (www.maritimmalta.com).

Radisson SAS (www.radisson.com) is also investing heavily in the area.

The Radisson SAS Golden Sands Resort & Spa is undergoing a complete redevelopment and is set to open its doors in July 2005. The venue will offer 2,000m2 of meetings space, plus tennis courts, watersports, leisure centre and an extensive spa. Meanwhile, over in St. Julian's the 252-room Radisson SAS Point Resort plans to reopen in October 2005 following a £1.5m refurbishment.

The eco-conscious hotel has its own desalination plant and solar cells, while its meetings rooms include a ballroom seating up to 700.

Le Meridien St Julian's (www.stjulians.lemeridien.com) is scheduled to open in summer 2005 on the waterfront of Balluta Bay. The hotel offers 14 meeting rooms for up to 315 people, indoors and rooftop pools and an extensive spa.

The final announcement for the island of Malta is the £10m refurbishment and extension of the 120-room, boutique, four-star Victoria Hotel (www.victoriahotel.com) in Sliema, which is scheduled to open in January 2006.

SPAIN

Two new Starwood properties are preparing to open on the Costa Blanca in July. The 236-room Sheraton Real de Faula Golf Resort (www.sheraton.com), along with the 224-room Westin Real de Faula Golf Resort & Spa (www.westin.com), are the latest properties for Spain from the hotel giant and four more are planned in the near future.

Recent accommodation developments include the opening of La Residencia in Mallorca (www.orient-express.com) following a three-month closure for renovation, and the announcement of a new property located between Marbella and Sotogrande. The boutique-style Park Hyatt Casares (www.hyatt.com) is scheduled to open in late 2006 and will feature 150 bedrooms, a golf course and spa.

ITALY

February 2005 marked the opening of Kempinski's first property in Italy, located in Mazara del Vallo on the island of Sicily. The 91-room Kempinski Giardino di Costanza Resort & Spa (www.kempinski.com) includes a conference centre housed in a restored 19th-century manor house with seating for up to 400.

Further developments this year include the refurbishment of the Marriott Tiberio Palace Resort & Spa (www.marriott.com) on the island of Capri.

The rebranded 61-room hotel has joined the Marriott International portfolio.

The hotel is scheduled to reopen in June 2005 with a spa and fitness area.

The Hotel Caruso, Ravello (www.orient-express.com) will open its doors following a £16m restoration programme. The 54-room property incorporates an 11th century colonnade, outdoor heated swimming pool and leisure facilities overlooking the Amalfi Coast.

SOUTH OF FRANCE

Boutique gems and smaller properties are on the rise in the South of France and Le Mas de Pierre (www.lemasdepierre.com) is the latest addition to the growing list of properties becoming available to organisers. Opening this month, this 45-room, five-star hotel in Saint-Paul de Vence is located just 15 minutes from Nice airport. Along with a range of facilities, including a fitness centre, Jacuzzi, hammam and heated outside pool, this family mansion has meeting rooms that can accommodate up to 120 people.

Other recent developments in the region include the expansion of Mice facilities at the Intercontinental Carlton Cannes (www.intercontinental.com). In January 2005, the hotel opened the Zephyr Centre, one of the largest hotel-based conference centres on the Cote d'Azur, which holds up to 700 theatre-style.

Over in the chic French principality of Monaco, home to many of the rich and famous, the iconic Hotel Metropole (www.metropole.mc) reopened in September following a major refurbishment. Its five meeting rooms can seat up to 110 theatre-style and a new spa is scheduled to be unveiled in May 2005.

GREECE

The boost given by the Olympic Games shows no sign of abating as properties expand and reopen on both the mainland and the Greek islands. This month, the Grecotel Olympia Riviera Resort (www.grecotel.gr) near Ancient Olympia reopens, incorporating three hotels.

This resort complex includes the Mandola Rosa, a boutique hotel that incorporates 16 suites and 11 villas in its own private estate within the Olympia Riviera. On the island of Mykonos, Kempinski Hotels and Resorts has taken over the management of a deluxe hideaway resort, 3 miles from the airport. The Kempinski Resort Saint John (www.kempinski.com) will reopen at the end of April 2005 with 145 rooms and suites, meetings space for up to 450 and the largest hotel pool on the island.

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