Madrid, Spain – So Very MICE

48 hours in Madrid, Spain’s Capital, thanks to Ovation Global DMC (www.ovationdmc.com)gave me a taste of this city’s Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Events (MICE) offering. When Spain is under consideration as a MICE destination, Madrid is often overlooked in favour of other locations within the country but after my visit, I don’t understand why this is the case. I also sense that this is about change. In essence, Madrid is the “new” Spanish destination. Madrid is well connected internationally via the Barajas International Airport making it logistically attractive for global MICE programmes and once you get there, WOW.

MICE  Activity Appeal

It is impossible not to talk about food when talking about Madrid. Food is just in the Madrid DNA and for MICE visitors, food can and should become an integral part of any programme. From tapas trails to superb dine around programmes and outstanding cuisine at exclusive venues, you could literally spend your entire stay in Madrid simply eating!

On arrival into Madrid, organising a city orientation walking tour to give you a sense of this magical city ensuring attendees are energised and excited for their Madrid MICE experience is recommended and Ovation Spain works with the finest guides in the city. Whether your city tour is on foot, by bicycle, Segway, GoCar or motor coach, a stop at the Buen Retiro Park, a stunning park in the city, is an absolute must.  You could even participate in a little boating on the lake if your heart desires. Whilst here, some food and beverage refreshments at Florida Park is recommended. Soaking up the atmosphere in Mercado de San Miguel, a bustling covered food market , originally built in 1916, is a great place for groups to get a taste of Madrid’s incredible food culture. Dining at the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium, home to Real Madrid, is such a culinary treat and a wonderful experience for any football fan and on my visit, the restaurant, Puerta 57, was so atmospheric with food that certainly did not disappoint.

The museum scene in Madrid is world class and offering a museum focused experience is highly recommended. Whether spending time at the Prado, hanging out in the Thyssen-Bornemisza or visiting the Reina Sofia, your attendees will get their museum fix without hassle in Madrid.

Madrid is full of interesting “barrios” (neighbourhoods) including Barrio de Las Letras, where Cervantes was born. Architecturally speaking, Madrid is a fascinating city and you could simply spend all day soaking up the various architectural styles present in the city.  A visit to The Royal Palace of Madrid is highly memorable and make it more special by renting a street level terrace of a nearby restaurant for coffee and refreshments. 

Minutes from Madrid

Minutes from Madrid is how I like to describe the incredible opportunities to explore UNESCO World Heritage sites in close proximity to Madrid on a day trip as part of your MICE programme. The city of Toledo, declared a world heritage site by UNESCO in 1986 for its extensive monumental and cultural heritage can be reached within 50 minutes. Just 60 minutes from Madrid is El Escorial and in 1984 UNESCO declared The Royal Seat of San Lorenzo of El Escorial a world heritage site. Or visit the spectacular city of Segovia, just 70 minutes away and home to the Roman Aqueduct and Old City, both designated as world heritage sites by UNESCO. Take time out and enjoy some “cochinillo asado” (roast suckling pig) while in Segovia, the signature local dish. A 75 minute transfer will take you to Ávila, declared a world heritage site by UNESCO in 1985 and often referred to as The Town of Stones and Saints featuring complete and prominent medieval town walls in the Romanesque style.  Now that’s quite the choice!

MICE Hotel Appeal

The hotel scene is heating up in Madrid with lots of new hotel developments in the pipeline. One of the most exciting of these is the opening of The Four Seasons in central Madrid, opposite the Casino de Madrid. Word on the street says it is due to open in 2019 but nothing confirmed as of yet. The Ritz Madrid, an iconic hotel in the city of Madrid, dates back to 1910, has 162 sleeping rooms and is due to close for renovations under the stewardship of Mandarin Oriental. I loved my time at The Ritz Madrid, but as renovation dates are not yet confirmed, it is difficult to consider it for groups right now but I imagine, once reopened, it will be a major player once again on the luxury hotel scene in Madrid. Watch this space.

Leading Hotels of The World has a strong presence in the city and I had the pleasure of visiting 3 of their hotels while there. My personal favourite is the Gran Melia Palacio de Los Duques, where references to Spain’s rich art heritage can be seen at every turn. With 180 bedrooms and 5 meeting rooms, an ideal group size for this hotel is between 40 – 60 rooms per night, double occupancy. Additional features that I loved where the Clarins products in the bathrooms, a gorgeous Rooftop Terrace with swimming pool and an internal garden providing a lovely outdoor space for groups. It’s sister hotel, the Gran Melia Fenix has a more traditional style and offers 193 rooms with an ideal group size being 70 rooms per night, double occupancy. During my visit the AS Roma Football Team where there so there was a great buzz around the lobby with media etc. Their executive style lounge and terrace for their Level guests is a nice way to enhance your hotel experience there. Villa Magna is located on the exclusive Paseo de la Castellana and can accommodate an ideal group size of 40 rooms per night, double occupancy. It has 150 sleeping rooms in total with 9 meeting rooms and during my visit the fitness facilities were being renovated. Last sleeping room renovations took place in 2009. It is one of the most in demand hotels in the city, which is reflected in the rates. Rooms are spacious starting at 322square feet and very well appointed in a traditional style. The hotel also features an excellent selection of suites and Villa Magna was the first hotel I have visited where they have shower scent capsules, which release your selected scent directly into the water coming from the shower head!

Overall, Melia Hotels has a strong presence in the Madrid market with 21 hotels across 4 brands, two of which, outlined above, are part of Leading Hotels of The World and are the two hotels that would be of most interest to MICE buyers from Canada and the United States. I’ll definitely plan to visit their ME Hotel with Rooftop Terrace overlooking Plaza Santa Ana on my next visit. The NH Collection Casa Suencia Hotel with 123 rooms, Rooftop Terrace and Secret Bar, appeals to a younger clientele and I very much enjoyed my time there.

Looking at the bigger 5 star hotels, I had the opportunity to visit The Intercontinental and The Westin Palace. The Intercontinental was a hive of activity as a Head of State event was taking place during my visit. With 302 sleeping rooms, of which they have 35 suites including 3 Presidential Suites and 92 Club Level rooms plus 15 meeting rooms with natural daylight, The Intercontinental is very popular for groups and they can provide a lot of flexibility on group sizes too. The Westin Palace has 470 rooms and with rooms currently under renovation on a phased basis with completion due by end of 2018, this is an excellent time to be sourcing the hotel for 2019 programmes onwards. I liked the lighter style of the renovated rooms, which mark a big departure from the original style. The flexibility of their 20 meeting rooms make this an excellent choice for larger groups and is located in an ideal part of the city. With an appealing breakfast space, a Japanese restaurant and a Museum Bar, the hotel also represents a great space to simply hang out in.

MICE Venue Appeal

If you can drag yourself away from your hotel or group activities, Madrid has a superb collection of offsite venues for welcome receptions, gala dinners and restaurant dine arounds. Ramses is a gastronomic venue, designed by Philippe Starck and overlooking Puerta de Alcalá. It has a range of spaces spread over 4 floors, suitable for groups including Nomad House, a private apartment style space on the top floor of this venue. Food concept is Mediterranean with international influences and the areas within the venue can be used privately or non-privately dependent on group numbers and requirements.  An event at the Madrid Stock Exchange makes for a memorable experience and is within walking distance of The Westin Palace Hotel. You can take your group to a casual night at a Finca, a rural estate, too for something outside the city that is casual in nature.. My stand out venues in Madrid, however, are the Casino de Madrid, Galería de Cristal and Circulo de Bellas Artes. For something more contemportary and completely flexible, I really enjoyed Palacio de Neptuno.

Madrid – Mi Amor!

My time in Madrid reignited my love of this city and I am excited about its future developments and its growing appeal as a MICE destination.

Stay In Touch

Keep up to speed on my MICE travels on Twitter @VeryKLC and Instagram @veryklc and look out for future travel posts on Prague in the coming weeks. Contact me directly at ken@klc.ie if you have any questions on my MICE travels or need support in sourcing your next international MICE programme via my DMC partners. 

Notes

KL Communications was hosted by its partner, Ovation Spain, the leading Madrid based destination management company, and part of Ovation Global DMC.

For more information on Ovation Spain, pop over to www.ovationdmc.com/destinations/spain/.

KL Communications

KL Communications is a Dublin based interaction design studio specialising in branding, communications and sales. With a background in business tourism, Ken Lyons brings a fresh approach to B2B sales. To further expand the agency offering, the collaboration with Paul Condron, Creative Strategist, brings a dynamic approach to how businesses embrace creativity. By adopting a Brand Publishing mindset to communications partnered with a commitment to company culture alignment, KL Communications collaborates with businesses to transform their branding and communications activities.