While the surging U.S. dollar is a prime inducement to travel beyond our borders,
perhaps a better measure of how far a group's cash will go in a foreign destination is the cost of lodging. As tracked by travel research firm STR, hotel rates are affected by more than currency; occupancy levels and other factors are at play as well.
Following are some global meeting destinations where hotels' average daily rate has fallen in the past year; figures in parentheses following the August 2016 rate (the most recent tallied by STR) show percentage change from August 2015. Brussels, Belgium
August 2016 ADR: US$86.91 (-1.2)
Group business has returned here since the shocking March 2016 terrorist attacks on Brussels Airport, just outside the Belgian capital, and the Maelbeek metro station on Rue de la Loi. "We suffered in spring, but since summer everything has come back to normal," says Hugo Slimbrouck, director of strategic partnerships at Ovation Global DMC. In particular, he cites improved incentive interest from North America.
Two trendy hotels have opened in the city. Near the Grand Palace, the 149-room Radisson Red Hotel Brussels
features three event "studios" totaling 1,200 square feet. Seasonal local fare is served at the OUIBar + KTCHN; an on-site food truck offers grab-and-go eats.
Also new is the 187-room Tangla Hotel Brussels
, part of China's HNA Group, with its 4,800-square-foot Imperial Ballroom and 3,700-square-foot Royal Ballroom. Guests dine at Le Cinq, a "reinvention of the classic buffet." Dubai
August 2016 ADR: US$106.16 (-9.5)
This Persian Gulf city continues to grow its meetings offerings. Last November saw the opening of the elegant 234-room St. Regis Dubai
, which offers various rooftop pools, eight restaurants and bars, the Iridium Spa and 20,000 square feet of meeting space.
This past summer, the 356-room W Dubai-Al Habtoor City
debuted with a 7,800-square-foot Great Room, while the 1,004-room Westin Dubai Al Habtoor City opened with its own 15,400-square-foot Al Joud ballroom.
The iconic 202-room Burj Al Arab Jumeirah,
shaped like a fully opened sail, remains the architectural jewel of the city, offering five pools, nine restaurants and bars, and the two-floor Talise Spa. Meeting space includes the open-air Assawan Amphitheater.London
August 2016 ADR: US$182.29 (-15.8)
As new Prime Minister Theresa May wrangles with pulling Great Britain out of the European Union, the British pound has taken a nosedive against the dollar, and the ADR has tanked. Perhaps that's why destination marketing organization London & Partners reports a 66 percent jump in inquiries from U.S. buyers in the two months following the June Brexit vote, year-over-year.
Just opened in October is the 253-room Montcalm Royal London House
, with the Burdock restaurant (complete with a craft-beer bar) and the Aviary rooftop restaurant and bar, along with seven event spaces and a spa.
The Sheraton Grand London Park Lane
unveiled a refresh in October as the property achieved Grand status. The 303-room art deco hotel now sports an upgraded Palm Court Lounge and the new Mercante Italian eatery.Milan, Italy
August 2016 ADR: US$125.39 (-11.4)
While hotel rates in sister city Rome have jumped by 12.6 percent year-over-year, Milan has gone in the opposite direction, as occupancy dropped below 50 percent in August.
In the center of town, the 235-room Excelsior Gallia Hotel
, part of Starwood's Luxury Collection, underwent a full renovation in 2015 and features about 11,000 square feet of meeting space and four dining options.
The 104-room Mandarin Oriental Milan
opened in October 2015, taking over four 18th-century buildings. Chef Antonio Guida has created Seta, a contemporary Italian restaurant with alfresco dining; the hotel's spa features six treatment rooms, and two meeting rooms host up to 160 for receptions.