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Strictly come Gdansk-ing

Every type of MICE facility
Poland has benefited greatly from huge sums of EU financial aid. It is very evident during a visit to the Gdansk area where the money has gone. We were shown tragic photographs of the appalling wartime destruction of the beautiful medieval town centres; but then we were able to see for ourselves how they have been restored in absolute detail so that strolling round the narrow streets and admiring the buildings on both sides you get no sense whatsoever that they have been rebuilt in the last couple of decades. However, the functions of many of the buildings have changed dramatically. Going inside we found a Radisson Blu Hotel full of character; the Gdansk Hotel with rooms themed in nautical style; restaurants, such as The Salmon, serving the freshest of fish dishes; and shops offering amber jewellery designed and made on the premises. Corporate groups can watch their own souvenir items being fashioned by the craftsmen. We were even shown a spider perfect in minute detail that had been trapped in the oozing amber 40 million years ago!

And, of course, the three cities have had modern facilities added in the shape not only of the PGE Arena, but sports halls, brand new hotels and auditoria.

After checking into the Gdynia Orbis Hotel, our first taste of the region was at lunch in the Barracuda Restaurant in Gdynia. We sat alongside the sandy beach that stretches 300 miles from the German to the Russian border. Whilst there we saw a group of people in business attire walking casually past us. Leading them was the Polish Prime Minister who was hosting an EU meeting at the Nadmorski Hotel on the hill overlooking the restaurant.

We were able to visit the beautifully located 90-room hotel that has been selected already as the base for the Swedish national football team ready for the EURO 2012 championships. It has four meeting rooms, able to seat up to 200 delegates.

We then went down to the port of Gdynia and watched the manoeuvring of some of the 30 tall ships that parade there annually. I had caught sight of them when I was in my room at the Gdynia Orbis Hotel. I then enjoyed wandering around and getting lost in the park at the port and waiting with a litre of beer at one of the scores of picnic tables until my hosts reclaimed me.

Sopot was next on our itinerary, just a few minutes away. It boasts the longest wooden pier in Europe and has that atmosphere of elegance that the grandes dames and their escorts would probably have enjoyed at the turn of the 19th century.

Adding to that impression is the beachside hotel the Sofitel Grand. Built in the 1920s it still boasts the original chandeliers in its ballroom. It has 127 spacious rooms and corridors and the public areas have superb views over the sea. The hotel boasts an excellent spa and private beach.

It is the kind of venue that would impress any delegate of an upmarket group, yet its room rates are only 400 zloty in the low season and 700 zloty at peak times. The low season more or less coincides with the out-of-holiday months that are most popular for event organisers, which means that the 400 rate, at roughly 5zl to the pound, is only £80 rack rate. Furthermore, the Day Delegate Rate, at 200zl, is only an additional £40 per person for coffee and tea breaks, lunch and meeting room hire.

We discovered on our trip that the cost of flying to Poland is rapidly amortised by the low costs of accommodation and food, yet, with help in selecting the right venues, quality need not be jeopardised.

Typical of the Three Cities, the immediate neighbour of the veteran Grand Hotel, now a Sofitel, is the brand new Sheraton Sopot Hotel, Conference Centre & Spa. It has 189 rooms and 4,000sqm of function space in 14 meeting rooms, able to seat up to 650 delegates at a time.

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