Philippe de Meyer, the General Manager, reviews its highlights for Sydney PauldenAsk Philippe De Meyer in which countries he has worked and the answer that comes back lists a varied series of desirable destinations. They range over the Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi, several locations in Kenya, Ankara in Turkey and Limassol in Cyprus. But his present position, General Manager of Kempinski Dukes Palace Hotel in Bruges, has brought him back to within a few miles of his starting point, He hails from the neighbouring town of Ghent.
Dukes Palace is not just a name plucked from the air. When the Dukes of Burgundy ruled over most of what Europe had to offer in the Middle Ages, one of their strategically located palaces was in Bruges, in the 15thC building that became a 5-star hotel in 2008. Guests can now experience all the luxury that the Ducal families enjoyed – and, of course, much more, now that Kempinski has spent substantial sums on all mod cons.
Philippe was visiting London and we naturally lunched at The Stafford Hotel, a prime Kempinski property in St James’s.
‘Bruges’, says Philippe, ‘was of great importance as a port in the days of the Dukes of Burgundy and a very rich centre of trade. It was described as The Venice of the North. Nowadays it is usually assumed that was because of its network of canals and bridges. However, it is much more than that. In its heyday it rivalled Venice for its influence over its region’.
The palace held a central position in town and was an iconic building. That is still true today, which makes the hotel a very desirable venue for meetings, ideal as an incentive base and perfect for a mix of both.
Dukes Palace has 93 rooms and suites, all spacious (40sqm and more) and all different. It can also boast 3,000sqm of gardens and slots for 140 cars in its basement car park. The hotel’s small tranquil Spa offers massage rooms and an indoor heated pool, sauna, steam bath and fitness area.
‘Our restaurant’, he says, ‘is not a hotel restaurant but a restaurant in a hotel and is highly regarded by local residents. It is Belgian cuisine and don’t forget that Belgium has pro rata one of the highest concentrations of Michelin-stars.’
The palace’s chapel is still extant and is now an especially impressive event space where 120 guests can enjoy a reception with a difference. The Ballroom, with big windows, can seat 180 theatre style or 150 for a dinner.’ Its attractive boardrooms have natural light.
‘About 30% of our business comes from MICE groups’, says Philippe, ‘and much of that from the UK. Organisers know that the city itself is a superb attraction and that Dukes Palace can offer the unusual combination of a city centre location with absolute privacy and confidentiality.’