The Auditorium is a top European venueThis is a hotel with an unrivalled range of facilities that are cleverly configured for maximum convenience. The main objective of our visit to Madrid was to sample the hospitality of the Auditorium Madrid Hotel. We were there for a sumptuous dinner, an extensive buffet breakfast, an overnight stay and we enjoyed a 1-hour showround, but we could still have benefited from a longer visit because it has so much to offer.
Built in 2003, it must be the largest hotel and conference centre in Spain and certainly a contender for the European title.
It has been designed, fortunately, to make life simple for guests and delegates. It is not at all a maze of rooms and corridors. There is a central hallway with four arms branching out at right angles on each side. The guestrooms are on the top three of the 5-storey buildings, there are break-out rooms galore on the mezzanine level whilst the huge event spaces are all on the ground floor.
There are 869 guestrooms, all doubles, inclusive of 28 Junior Suites and two Presidential Suites. The rooms are comfortably appointed but at the same time designed for working delegates, so there is a good desk, free internet access by ADSL and Modem line, three telephone sockets and individually controlled air conditioning. Free Wi-Fi is available in all public areas.
In addition to room service, there are convenient f&b outlets for busy people, including a popular lobby bar, a corner bar, the Madrid Buffet and the Gueridon Restaurant.
The event facilities are known jointly as the Principe Felipe Conference Centre. The statistics are mind-blowing. There is a total of 59 meeting rooms, almost all pillar free over a wide range of sizes. On the mezzanine floor there are 28 break-out rooms, each distinguished with a Spanish name, so they are easily located.
On the ground floor there is 15,000 sqm of event space in 27 halls. They are very easily accessible for anything to be displayed or exhibited, with tall, wide doorways permitting delivery of the largest vehicles or other equipment an organiser or exhibitor might wish to show.
The main event spaces are easily identifiable as they are clustered in different wings of the building. Delegates have no problem locating any of the rooms.
Amongst many highlights of this property, perhaps the most significant is the Auditorium that gives the hotel its name. It has a capacity of 2,300 people divisible into two totally independent auditoria, each for 1,150.
There is a spacious stage that can be accessed from outside even by large trucks. The auditoria are, of course, supported with all the necessary changing rooms, the latest technical and a-v equipment demanded by modern event organisers.
Palacio de Negralejo
Soon after arrival at Madrid’s Barajas Airport, we lunched at a fascinating special venue. Palacio de Negralejo dates from 1790, but is on the site of a previous castle going back to the 16thC, of which the original cellars and passageways still survive.
For generations the estate was a thriving farm and stud stables and was continually extended with the addition of barns, granaries, labourers’ cottages and even a chapel.
Quite recently the whole complex has been carefully restored and transformed into a beautiful and engaging venue for lunches, banquets, gala dinners and product launches. It is out of town, easily reached from the airport and a short distance from the Auditorium Hotel, so it can serve as an excursion for delegates attending events there.
The Palacio has preserved many of the tools, cooking vessels, riding tack and furnishings of former times and used them as an integral part of the decor.
Because of its history, Negralejo has an array of different rooms for events of all sizes, most of which can be accessed without encroaching on the others. As many as 1,000 can be hosted.
Even in December, the ambiance was one of tradition, garlands and flowers with a sense of constantly being surrounded by solid beams in a garden location. And the lunch was as tasty and well presented as anyone had ever experienced.
Madrid is a majestic backcloth to any event
Though we were all well-travelled MICE professionals, the majority of the Fam Trip group were unfamiliar with Madrid. To set the general scene before we carried out a site inspection of our hotel, the Auditorium Madrid, we were able to see some of the city’s growing number of special venues for dine-arounds and gala dinners and also take in Madrid’s gloriously impressive city centre.
The description ‘Palace’ is often devalued by being applied to buildings that have little significance, but the centre of Madrid is a series of buildings worthy of the name. In one avenue alone you pass not one, not two, but three magnificent museums and art galleries, of which any one could be the main focus of attention in another capital city.
When the Auditorium is the venue for a conference, Madrid’s city centre is close at hand and a valuable backcloth for any evening activity.
During the great days of the Spanish empire, the grandees were able to indulge in the building of superb, literally palatial estates in the hills close to the city. Many of these are now available as special venues for any size of gathering. They not only have spacious rooms, but the climate permits al fresco gatherings for much of the year and there is a wide choice of patios, gardens and poolside lawns for cocktail receptions or themed evenings.
Malaga is a great new destination – with ancient delights
Major new investment in modern facilities and careful conservation of old treasures will put Malaga City firmly on the MICE map
Everyone can say they know of Malaga, but very few can really say they know Malaga. It has been the gateway for many millions of visitors to the Costa del Sol, but they have been intent on passing through and have failed to discover that Malaga City has so much to offer.
From now on that will change. Malaga has started on a multi-billion £ investment programme that will have a major impact on every aspect of its travel business. Earmarked for construction, enhancement or expansion are the airport, the harbour, train links, a city Metro and top-of-the-range hotels.
But, even before the fruits of this investment are to be seen, Malaga is a fascinating, attractive and multi-sided destination. Our group of UK MICE buyers discovered that in a very short time.
We arrived from Madrid by the high-speed AVE train that came into operation in November 2007. A new station was built for it and not only did we see that on arrival, but we were hosted at the station’s brand new Barcelo hotel. At a cocktail reception there we were introduced to dignitaries of the city, the Convention Bureau’s top executives and representatives of other hotels as well as the most experienced local DMCs.
This alone would have made our arrival memorable, but in addition the group found time to enjoy a slide that could be used to zoom rapidly into the foyer from the floor above and there was soon hot competition from buyers, hoteliers and DMCs alike to see who could make the most dramatic descent.
It didn’t take us long to find out that Malaga is very hospitable – and great fun.
Malaga has many facets of immediate interest to event organisers.
Its venues range from an ultra-modern purpose-built high-tech conference and exhibition centre to vintage chateaux and stately homes.
Malaga has a choice of hotels up to 4-star and its investment programme is adding 2,500 rooms in 4- and 5-star properties. It has a picturesque, bustling Old Quarter with a maze of traffic-free narrow streets, boutiques, snug bars and hide-away squares.
Picasso figures largely in the list of attractions. Malaga was his hometown and there is a Picasso museum to illustrate not only his works but also his life and changing style of art.
On the outskirts of town are the extensive, lush Botanical Gardens, where a well preserved mansion can be used as a venue for refreshments or a meeting.
There is also a very special beachfront, much used by the local population. It is lined with tiny seafood restaurants that do their charcoal grilling on the beach itself, with old sand-filled boats put into service as barbecues.
The city is so compact that the Fam Trip group was able to visit all of these – and more – in the space of 24 hours. We toured the Old Quarter on foot, had cocktails in one chateau and dined in another; lunched on the beach in a warm December sun and rambled through the Botanical Gardens during a break in a coach tour.
Malaga’s ambitious development programme
Pablo Picasso Airport will have a new terminal in 2009 and a new runway in 2010, doubling capacity. It will make it all the easier for international conference organisers to fly in delegates and speakers from every corner of the world. Furthermore, the fast AVE train service links Malaga with not only Madrid, but also Cordoba and Seville. Cruise lines are already enjoying the new harbour terminal opened in December 2007. In 2010 the Waterfront will give the city more attractive facilities by the sea, with up to 60 new shops, bars and restaurants creating a new city hotspot. By 2011 the Waterfront should offer a new Opera House that will also serve as a conference venue.
Among a flurry of new hotel projects, one that stands out is the transformation of the beautiful Palacio Miramar into a 5-star beachfront hotel that is expected to become the city’s hotel icon.
Eight new museums will bring the city’s total to 30. Newcomers will include the world-famous Thyssen Museum, an Automobile Museum and a building to house the world’s largest collection of gems. Here visitors will also be able to journey through pre-historic times and experience what it is like to be struck by hurricanes, earthquakes and tsunamis.
City centre hotel, Molina Lario
In Malaga we stayed in the centre of town in the Molina Lario. It is conveniently placed overlooking the harbour. Molina Lario has 103 stylish rooms, there are six function rooms suitable for meetings for up to 250 delegates. It has a roof-top pool where guests can choose to swim, sunbathe and/or admire the city and harbour views.
Hillside chateau, a garden palace and Botanic Gardens
We transferred to a remarkable hill-side chateau, not that far from the hotel, for cocktails on the way to dinner. It was the Castillo de Santa Catalina. It is not only a venue for up to 500 people, but a visitor attraction in itself. The chateau was built in 1900, but the adjoining fortress dates from 1624. On several levels, each staircase opens new vistas of quaint rooms, secluded gardens and views over Malaga Bay.But this was only a stepping stone to our dinner venue, the Limonar Restaurant, Palacio de Liria. Set in manicured gardens, the meal proved that it was worthy of being known as a gourmet restaurant.
The following morning we had the benefit of bright December sunshine for a refreshing walk through the city’s delightful Botanic Gardens. These are regarded as the finest in Spain and are obviously very popular locally. They date from 1853 and the focal point is Loring Palace that can be a venue for 100 people. The Palm Trees Avenue seats up to 800 for an alfresco banquet.
Malaga’s most modern venue
In total contrast to the other venues we visited, our last site visit was to the Palacio de Ferias y Congresos de Malaga, the Trade Fairs and Congress Centre of Malaga.
This is a 21st century structure, unashamedly modern in its use of glass, tubular steel, marble and colour. But the main impression is one of light and air. Uniquely, there is a huge atrium area in the heart of the building that gives delegates in any numbers the chance to wind down and feel easy, taking coffee and refreshments alfresco.
The Centre has a total of 60,000 sqm of space. There are two auditoria able to seat 900 and 600 people respectively, two large meeting rooms of 500 sqm each and six break-out or meeting rooms for 70 delegates each. The exhibition space is in two halls, adding up to 17,000 sqm.
There is a choice of restaurants, the largest capable of seating 1,500 people.