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by Lisa Grimaldi | May 01, 2010

The principality of Monaco is celebrated for luxe properties and boutiques, elegant dining and nightlife, yachting and Grand Prix events, a wealth of fine arts and a royal family.

While that glamorous image may have hurt its U.S. meeting and incentive business in 2009, when companies were still reeling from the AIG effect, it is what makes the destination stand out for firms who want their attendees and top performers to experience what once was called the jet-set lifestyle.

Meeting and incentive inquiries picked up in the first quarter of 2010, according to the Monaco Government Tourist Office. To spur bookings, the MGTO has continued to offer meetings and incentives packages, with prices guaranteed in U.S. dollars, through 2011; details are available at visitmonaco.com.

Hotel news This month, the Hôtel Her­mitage will unveil the new look of its Winter Garden, which serves as the group check-in area. The space, originally designed by Gus­tave Eiffel (of Eiffel Tower fame), has been transformed by renowned French interior designer Pierre-Yves Rochon. Other upgrades -- the refurbishment of the hotel's six meeting rooms and the addition of a new salle, or ballroom, that will accommodate up to 340 theater-style and 260 for seated events -- should be completed by January 2011.

The 619-room Fairmont Monte Carlo's Willow Stream Spa debuted last summer on the property's rooftop, featuring seven treatment rooms.

Le Méridien Beach Plaza has launched a green meeting program. Among the initiatives at the 403-room hotel are pitchers of filtered water with mint or lemon to replace bottles, notebooks made of recycled paper, menus featuring local and organic foods, and a program that enables groups to make donations to UNICEF.

The Hôtel Metropole Monte Carlo has launched a program called "Just for the Team," a series of group activities. Among the options are a day at Château Roubine's castle and cellars, followed by a tasting of vintage wines and lunch with the owners.

Venue update The Grimaldi Forum, the principality's main exhibition venue, is giving its A/V and signage systems a $1.3 million upgrade. The project will be complete by year's end.

Zest is a new dining spot in one of Monaco's most picturesque spots: the harbor where some of world's most luxurious yachts are docked. The eatery has a caviar bar and a live music lounge with décor that mixes baroque and modern styles. The restaurant accommodates 300 for receptions and 150 for a seated dinners. The terrace, open July through October, can seat 250 for dinner and 500 for receptions. A bonus for incentives: Cooking demonstrations are available for private groups of up to 16.

The Black Legend Monaco opened last fall. Billed as a "restaurant, bar, lounge, live-music venue and nightclub all in one," the Motown-themed site can be reserved for private groups Mondays through Wednesdays. Groups of up to 500 in the nightclub, 350 for cocktail receptions and 140 for seated dinners can be accommodated.

DMC Update French destination management company Lafayette Travel recently opened an office in the principality, with Lucas Coenen serving as managing director. Lafayette Travel Monaco is represented in the United States by The DMC Group.

Cambiaso Risso, which provides land excursions for cruise passengers visiting Monaco, has launched an incentive and convention department. Among the DMC's offerings are behind-the-scenes tours of studios of the Monte-Carlo Ballet Co., visits to the Oceanographic Museum with a marine biologist, and antique-hunting tours of French Riviera flea markets. Cambiaso Risso's team is headed by Philippe Borsarelli.