by Leo Jakobson | March 26, 2015
When a global telecommunications company wanted to bring 35 of its top international salespeople on an incentive trip they'd never forget, they looked to Europe after several years spent in North America and the Caribbean.

"Monaco won out because it is a bucket-list destination and somewhere they might not go on their own," says Danielle Dillow, a senior program specialist at Irving, TX-based Spear One, a full-service meeting and incentive house. "They wanted to set the bar very high, and they did. Monaco was one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences."

Staying at the Hôtel Hermitage, which Dillow says "embodies the spirit of Monaco," the 35 couples engaged in classic excursions to the French Riviera such as a catamaran ride to nearby Villefranche-sur-Mer for lunch and shopping; a classic car rally and a helicopter ride along the Mediterranean coastline; and a day trip to the Fragonard perfume factory in Eze, a stunning, medieval French mountaintop village. The final night's award dinner was a black-tie affair at the Villa Rothschild in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, France, known for its collection of paintings from the Old Masters and famed gardens.

New options for groups this year include the Exotic Garden of Monaco, dating to 1933 and encompassing 123,000 square feet of cacti and other succulent plants, as well as an underground Observatory Cave of stalactites and stalagmites. Areas of the garden can be privatized for groups of 100 to 1,000 for cocktails and up to 250 for seated dinners. It features wonderful views of the Palace and Port Hercule.

While it remains very much a private membership organization, the new Yacht Club de Monaco, which opened this past summer, has hosted several private corporate dinners in its brand-new building. Designed by the famed architect Lord Norman Foster, it overlooks the 300-foot super yachts that dock in the Port Hercule marina. Due to the club's membership policy, booking an event here is not just a matter of looking at its calendar of available dates; it is, however, possible on a case-by-case basis, and the Monaco Government Tourist Office can facilitate the conversation.

The guest rooms of the 182-room Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo, the principality's original grand hotel located next to the Casino de Monte Carlo, are undergoing a major renovation project. It includes the creation of a central garden courtyard and extensive new use of the roof where a new fitness center, spa, pool area, several suites, and a rooftop villa with a private garden and pool will be added. Neither the hotel's three-Michelin-Star Le Louis XV-Alain Ducasse restaurant nor the gilt-and-marble-encrusted Salle Empire ballroom will be impacted during the renovations.

Elsewhere, the Fairmont Monte Carlo has renovated its 15,135-square-foot Salle d'Or ballroom, while the Monte-Carlo Bay Hotel & Resort's Blue Bay restaurant was recently awarded a Michelin star, marking the principality's ninth Michelin star overall.