As another year begins, it is time to reflect back on 2016 and look forward to what this year will bring. With budgets getting bigger and staff incentive programmes once again growing in popularity, we see a steady increase in demand and a buoyant desire for business and incentive travel. New European Economy looks at the hotspot destinations to help grow your business, inspire your workforce and build your brand.

Lisbon
Thanks to young creatives reinforcing the tech start-up scene, Lisbon is the cosmopolitan place to be in 2017, with around 40% of the founders in Start-up Lisboa coming from abroad. Young professionals from all over Europe are drawn to Lisbon to live, work and party and Lisbon was chosen as the ‘Best City or Short Break Destination’ by the Travel Media Awards 2016. The Portuguese capital hosted the Web Summit last year, showcasing that it is the perfect setting to promote the future trends in tech and with the sun shining 290 days a year, everything looks bright. Lisbon’s official website, www.visitlisboa.com covers accommodation, activities, attractions and eateries in the city. So, where can MICE delegates go for a beautiful meal in Lisbon? There are hundreds of options but Kais, housed in what used to be an old warehouse that generated electricity to power Lisbon’s trams, can feed up to 410 people and entertain 1,000 delegates for drinks. MICE business is central to the restaurant, which also has a night club, allowing everyone to truly unwind. The capital hosted 145 congresses and meetings in 2015, and moved up three places to ninth in the ICCA city ranking, putting it ahead of Copenhagen, Prague, Amsterdam and Brussels.

 Cape Town
Although Cape Town’s natural beauty is indisputable, with the Stellenbosch wine region and beautiful Camps Bay with an array of leisure activities on offer, including shark cage diving in the Atlantic, abseiling down Table Mountain, whale watching, snorkelling or shopping, there is less consensus on its status as a world-class business destination. Let’s set the record straight. The city has established itself internationally as a sophisticated and competitive business events destination, consistently voted the No. 1 conference city in Africa and the Middle East. The Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC) has secured its bid to host the 2022 International Congress on Immunology, meaning the congress will come to Africa for the first time, bringing close to 6,000 delegates to share a wealth of knowledge with the city and province. The CTICCs new CTICC East Expansion Project will enhance the city’s position as Africa’s leading MICE destination. Many companies acknowledge that MICE do not just successfully educate and motivate staff, but that it is also a way to increase the public’s awareness of businesses and products. Cape Town is an ideal destination to do just that.

Bruges
Bruges earns a well-deserved place on our destination list with medieval buildings, narrow cobblestone streets, picturesque canals and over 3,300 rooms in 101 hotels, each with its own history and character. World Heritage city Bruges offers a wide range of quality hotels and venues and the Convention Bureau Meeting in Bruges will help you turn your conference into a resounding success. The city may be small, but it’s full of beauty and brilliance. Eating out will be a pleasure as out of the three restaurants in Belgium which have received the top rating of 3 Michelin stars of excellence, two are located here. This gives Bruges one of the highest ratios of Michelin stars per capita in the world, putting it on the map as Belgium’s unequalled capital of gastronomy. A new convention and exhibition centre is set to reach completion by 2020, measuring approximately 4.500m2 of exhibition space and a congress infrastructure for 500 to 600 participants, with a meeting space, breakout rooms and networking areas. Whether you’d like to have dinner in the sky, visit a chocolate museum or emerge yourself in the magical, charming culture that Bruges has to offer, this destination gets ten out of ten.

Malta
Malta was made for meetings. A big benefit that the Maltese Islands offer is their size. No venue is too far away, everywhere can be reached within an hour or less, providing money savings as transfer times and transport costs are kept at a minimum. The 2017 Commonwealth Local Government Conference will take place in Valletta from 21-24 November 2017, highlighting the islands commitment to excellence and Malta was awarded third best diving destination in Sport Diver Award 2016. Construction work has officially started on the Malta branch of Crane Currency, a major banknote printing firm that signals the single greatest investment by a manufacturing company in the island since the 1980s, showcasing the islands current investment power. Air Malta is planning on implementing a new flight schedule this summer which will maximise opportunities and travel search site Skyscanner has named Malta as its top pick for travel destination for Britons next year. Cresta Property Services should be high on your contact list if you are thinking of doing business in Malta, while Conventions Malta will provide free, unbiased information and assistance to those who are considering the Maltese Islands as a place to host their event.

St Petersburg
Russia is traditionally seen as a largely enigmatic country but 2017 is the year to really discover its true potential. In recent years popular Russian destinations like St. Petersburg and Moscow have enjoyed an increase in tourists from various European countries, China, Iran and India, and both cities provide a marvellous stage for any conference. The MICE business in Russia is expanding fast and the cultural centre of St. Petersburg offers much more than just the Hermitage Museum and the Kirov Ballet. The northern city will host the FIFA World Cup next year and the Russian government has set hotel price limits in order to inhibit inflated prices as was the case in other locations hosting global events like the World Cup and the Olympics. St. Petersburg has been named ‘Europe’s Leading Destination’ for the 2nd year running and destination and event management company Galaktika offers some of the most exclusive and prestigious MICE facilities, providing a committed and professional team that will ensure your event incorporates the latest best practice. Moscow event locations are as exquisite as the city itself and trade fairs and business conventions held in Moscow and St. Petersburg draw people from all over the world. This exposure, alongside their seven and three million economically active population respectively, will generate fantastic publicity for your brand.

Peru
For those of you who are more adventurous and want to go further afield for a team- building excursion, Iquitos, located at the headwaters of the Amazon River, is the largest city in the rainforest of Peru. The river and rainforest are the main attractions, and closer to town, a visit to the market and ‘floating village’ of Belen is a must. However, taking a cruise on the great river is the crème de la crème of travel. Delfin Amazon Cruises are your best bet to see the Amazon River in all its glory from the boat’s open-air, rooftop bar. Providing quality boutique-type accommodation while exploring the world’s largest forest and river system promises to provide an unforgettable, magical voyage. Each cruise begins from either Nauta or Iquitos city where the wonderful floating Al Frio y Al Fuego restaurant is located. The Delfin I features 4 spacious deluxe suites sleeping eight, all of them with private terraces and two of them with private whirlpool baths. The 28-guest Delfin II combines spacious, air-conditioned comfort and five-star cuisine. Both offer an experience like no other and these four or five-day cruises offer phenomenal natural sights and pure luxury, allowing you to sail the Amazon in style.

 Canary Islands
In 2015 the Canary Islands attracted more than 29,000 people related to the MICE sector, generating a turnover of almost 31 million euros. Tenerife, ‘the island of eternal spring’, is a firm favourite and is Europe’s very own unique tropical paradise. It is an ideal spot for incentive travel, trade fairs, workshops, conferences and conventions, with modern international airports, a sunny climate, avant-garde conferencing facilities and the high standard of hotels on offer making it a MICE destination of choice. The Hard Rock Hotel Tenerife sits on the Canary Island’s sunny southern coast near Adeje and will add some star quality to your event. The Hard Rock Hotel, part of the Palladium Hotel Group, offers a 620 m2 state-of-the-art centre that hosts up to 700 people, with contemporary technology, world-class catering, and not forgetting that all important rock star service! After the conference your guests can splash their way around the hotel’s three tempting pools before chilling in the Beach Club beside the saltwater lagoon. This is Europe’s largest Hard Rock Hotel, and combines the character and energy of this renowned brand with the vivacious atmosphere that Tenerife has to offer. A match made in heaven.

Central Maine
The central Maine region is a logistics hub between Boston, New York, Quebec, Maritimes Canada and Europe, and European firms looking to expand in the North East US need look no further for direction and assistance than the Kennebec Regional Development Authority (KRDA), a one stop shop that caters and supports firms going through the investment process. Interest in Maine has been driven by both its economic growth and the many advantages the state offers investors. Out of the 50 states, Maine was among the top ten vis-à-vis economic growth in the first quarter of 2016, producing US$ 58.1 billion in goods and services compared to $55 billion the year before. With low tax burdens on new businesses and labour costs 6% lower than the national average, investment opportunities keep attracting businesses to Maine. Kennebec Valley checks all the boxes for expansion into America. It delivers the marketplace advantages in terms of workforce, location, and infrastructure and offers a high quality of life. Envirem Organics Ltd. has chosen the city of Unity, Maine for its first facility in America, providing $4 million investment for the region and Canadian investment in Kennebec Valley is set to increase. Join companies such as Envirem and set up home here. Get in touch with KRDA as economic outlook in Kennebec Valley is excellent.

Greenland
The main source of power in Greenland is hydroelectricity, which has the capacity to be developed to facilitate large mining operations. The potential for mining in Greenland is huge, but since 2013, when the Nalunaq gold mine closed, the sprawling Arctic island has not built any new mines. That is due to change: two mines are expected to be online by the end of 2017 and seven others have made the ACRM’s list of those within reach of being licenced to drill. Looking forward, Greenland aims to make petroleum and mineral resources one of its primary industries, providing new opportunities for the oil and minerals exploration industry backed up by an ample workforce and infrastructure. Greenland Minerals and Energy Limited (GMEL) have focused on the Kvanefjeld multi-element project through the feasibility phase and into mine development. Ideally located in South Greenland, Kvanefjeld has direct shipping access all year round. This differs from many other emerging REE projects, in that it is a multi-commodity project that is anticipated to also produce uranium and zinc. Focused on energy efficiency, it is essentially a global venture. North American Nickel Inc. (NAN) leads the way. Based in the Fossilik area, the company engages in activities such as drilling, prospecting, surface sampling and ground geophysical surveys. NAN has been successful in continuing their extensive exploration over a large area for Ni sulphides in the Maniitsoq region of West Greenland. With the continuing support of the Sentient Group NAN will carry on drilling in 2017 and there is more progress in the industry. A mining permit issued last month by the Greenland Government to Ironbark Zinc Limited is expected to employ 500 once operational. Greenland is warming up for your business and any investment there is likely to go for gold. As soon as mines begin opening, more explorers will come and most areas suitable for exploration are close to potential deepwater port facilities.

Dublin
Nearly 200,000 people are employed by international companies in Ireland according to the 2016 annual report from IDA Ireland. These numbers are testament to the quality that the country offers, highlighting once again how the emerald isle is investment worthy in 2017. The Dublin Port is located in the heart of Ireland’s capital city and provides a gateway to Europe. Current projects that are underway will transform the ports ability to handle larger ships and the increased trade volumes expected as Irelands economy returns to full health. Dublin Port Company develops, manages, controls and operates the Dublin Port and has prepared a Masterplan to guide its development until 2040, examining how the existing land use can be optimised for merchandise trade purposes. Last year 113 cruise calls brought approximately 180,000 visitors to the capital. Next year over 14,000 travellers are expected to start their cruise holiday from Dublin as part of the Celebrity Cruises investment in the Port. Continued investment looks likely as Dublin Port Company’s track record of backing key projects offers a degree of certainty regarding future developments, allowing investors to plan accordingly. Designs to create new pedestrian entry points to soften and enliven the Port’s boundaries with the City are already afoot and hope to be completed by September 2017. The MICE industry saw huge international growth last year, with increasing demand for services, facilities and accommodation. Despite the current stormy geopolitical and economic climate, this trend will continue into 2017.

Buy your tickets and tighten your seatbelts, we’re in for an exciting 2017.