by Leo Jakobson | May 22, 2013
One hundred and fifty years ago, the tiny principality of Monaco invented Monte Carlo by building a grand, palatial casino and founding the tourism entity Societe des Bains de Mer (SBM), which quickly built the equally palatial Hotel de Paris Monte-Carlo in Place du Casino Square. Other hotels and restaurants soon followed and today, Monaco is an incentive destination that has nearly unlimited cachet as a luxury destination, complete with Ferrari traffic jams and billionaires' yachts. 

That is what brought HON, a manufacturer of office furniture, to Monaco for its 30th year of Team Up With HON, a dealer principal sales incentive program, in April. Activities for the 242 attendees relied on Monaco's proximity to France and Italy: a 20-minute drive will take you through all three countries without border checkpoints.

Dick O'Connor, senior account manager at Maritz Motivation Solutions, says the team "held French cooking classes, which were the rave of the [post-event] comments." An outdoor market in Nice, an excursion to Cannes, and a visit to Antibes to see a costume museum and participate in an absinthe tasting were also included. In Eze, a medieval mountaintop village, attendees visited the Fragonard perfume factory and created their own scents.

They also visited the Casino de Monte-Carlo, where the gaming rooms underwent a restoration last year. This was followed by a cocktail reception in the casino's grand foyer and a nearby stroll to the famous Cafe de Paris, where HON held its recognition banquet. "It was in the Empire Room, which is just stunning," O'Connor says. "We used a custom-blown 16-inch plate/art piece that we had produced in [nearby] Biot instead of a typical plaque."

Old and New
In a country that's barely three-quarters of a square mile in area, Monte-Carlo SBM dominates, running all five casinos, four hotels, and several restaurants, bars, spas, and sporting facilities. SBM and the other top hotels all work with the Monaco Government Tourist Office to offer dollar-denominated group pricing, to keep exchange rate concerns to a minimum.

One new venue is the European-style market Marche de la Condamine, which can now be taken over for private events. It offers colorful fruit, vegetable, flower, seafood, and produce stands for a buffet of regional specialties. The market's covered area is available year-round and can accommodate 500, while the seasonal outdoor market can accommodate 2,000.

Another venue is the pool at the five-star Hotel Metropole Monte-Carlo, where catered meals come from the staff of its three Joel Robuchon restaurants, including the two-Michelin-starred Joel Robuchon Monte-Carlo. The new Odyssey pool and restaurant is the work of the famed fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld. The pool is also available for private events.