I’m going to go out on a limb here and acknowledge that some of the Dorchester Collection properties are among my favorite hotels in Europe.
Pick an adjective: they are grand, beautiful and iconic. That said, I’m very aware of the lingering controversy surrounding them, and I assume most travel agents are, too. I also assume that people will make up their own minds on whether to book these properties or not.
For those who do, here are some over-the-top offers the hotels are creating to attract small incentive group business.
Guests at the 250-room The Dorchester in London, for example, can throw a private Kitchen Party for up to 120 guests that can include cooking classes with the chef, music by a DJ and a customized menu with such options as lobster and truffled chicken quenelles from Alain Ducasse; a Peking Duck Station from China Tang; a sushi bar from Henry Brosi, and mini beef sliders on brioche from CUT at 45 Park Lane. The party is priced from about $37,000 for 50 guests.
Also in London, groups of up to eight can take an art class at the 45 Park Lane hotel with Jane McAdam Freud, contemporary artist and great-granddaughter of Sigmund Freud. The class, complete with gourmet picnic, costs about $131 per person.
Coworth Park, a 70-room country house hotel in Ascot, offers soft-adventure group activities that range from the unusual, like herding ducks through an obstacle course with the help of Welsh collies, to the more straightforward, like cycling, archery, soccer and croquet. Duck herding starts at about $1,190 for 10 people; other activities start at about $65 per hour for groups of up to 25.
At the 160-room Le Meurice in Paris, guests can experience an 18th century buffet in the historic Salon Pompadour, complete with ballet dancers serving dinner and operatic performances at each course. The event is customizable, and prices vary.
Also in Paris, the newly renovated, 208-room Hotel Plaza Athenee offers a Once Upon a Time experience that can include dining at Jules Verne at the Eiffel Tower, treatments at the property's Dior Institut spa, and a visit to the pastry school of chef Christophe Michalak. Prices vary.
The 109-room Le Richemond at Lake Geneva offers aeronautical team building excursions, such as an introduction to aerial acrobatics in a two-seat Cap 10 for about $385 or a glacier landing in the Swiss Alps in a Piper Super Cub monoplane for about $610.
At the 301-room Hotel Principe di Savoia in Milan, guests can embark on a truffle hunting adventure with the help of guides and specially trained dogs, followed by a three-course lunch featuring, of course, truffles. Available from October through November, the class is priced at about $1,030 per person for groups of six and also includes sightseeing and a cooking class.
The 121-room Hotel Eden in Rome offers a Retro Car Tour of Rome in such classics as Fiat 500s, Fiat 600s and Volkswagen Beetles from the '60s and ‘70s. Excursions, available for up to 20 people, are priced at about $687 per car, and self-drive options also are available.
The hotels create an environment where incentive groups and luxury leisure guests can coexist harmoniously by having separate facilities in key areas.
"Both our London and country hotels were … designed to accommodate requirements from different groups of guests,” said Roland Fasel, regional director and general manager of The Dorchester. The property offers a separate entrance on Park Lane for large groups, keeping them separate from the main arrival, he said, adding: “… Coworth Park consists of several buildings laid out across a … 240 acre estate, meaning leisure guests can enjoy uninterrupted peace and quiet while larger groups are catered for.”
Similarly, in Milan the Hotel Principe Di Savoia offers separate meeting areas for groups and individual guests.
“… MICE guests all stay together and have a speedy check in/check out process and … our individual guests do not have to enter the hall and find a group of people before them,” said the hotel’s General Manager Ezio Attilio Indiani. “If MICE groups prefer to have meals all together we can also organize a banqueting room for all their dining needs from breakfast through dinner.”