Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Travel Tuesdays: Best of London

The 2012 London Olympic Games have officially kicked off and I am more than jealous of all who were able to go. What I wouldn’t give to be there right now and join in on the most exciting sports event of the year. However, since many of us cannot be there during this exciting time of the year, we can recommend some locations to stay at if you are planning on visiting this beautiful city in the near future. Our top two recommendations are both nestled in the heart of the city and have received raving reviews.

Mandarin Oriental London
Located right next to Hyde Park, the Mandarin Oriental London is a beautiful hotel that allows you to experience everything that is London and so much more. Located right in the middle of Knightsbridge, the Mandarin Oriental London is minutes walking distance or one special rickshaw ride, offered specially by the hotel, from the best of London’s shopping.
Aside from the location, there are plenty more amenities INSIDE the hotel that are just as fantastic. The rooms are designed with only elegance in mind and are fit for a queen…you know if you were one and you didn’t live at Buckingham Palace. Humor aside, the rooms are lined in colors that make you feel as if you yourself were part of the royal family. Heston Blumenthal, one of London’s most celebrated chefs is in charge of the menus at the Mandarin Oriental London and what a dining experience it is. The Mandarin Oriental Hotel comes highly recommended not only from our very own CEO but many others who have experienced the great services, beautiful rooms, and delicious food.

Crowne Plaza London
Also located in an ideal location, the Crowne Plaza is more of an understated lux although it is still luxurious. Situated between Buckingham Palace, the Houses of Parliament, the London Eye, and Victoria Station, it is the perfect hotel for your business as well as your vacation needs.
The amenities inside the hotel include three restaurants and two bars, one of which is the Michelin Star Quilon, which serves a south-west coastal Indian cuisine. If you are looking to spend some time relaxing, they have the Spa at 51 which is available for use by all of their guests. You can get an a la carte spa treatment from any one of their fully trained staff members. If you want to take advantage of the outside services the Crowne Plaza has to offer, you can always indulge in a horse and carriage ride offered at their sister hotel across the courtyard, Taj Suites and Residences.

Be sure to check out both of these lovely locations if you are in London and experience the wonderful city that is London. Happy Olympics everyone!
For more information check out their websites:
Crowne Plaza London: http://london.crowneplaza.com/
Mandarin Oriental London:  http://www.mandarinoriental.com/london/

Monday, July 30, 2012

Meeting Mondays: WEC 2012

WEC 2012 started this past Saturday and goes until tomorrow in St. Louis, Missouri. What does WEC stand for you may ask? World Education Congress. Hosted by Meeting Professionals International (MPI) every year, this convention brings thousands of meeting planners, event planners, hoteliers, tech pros, and many other service providers together at this conference to share their ideas on how to make better connections in this industry. It is a great way for professionals to meet and network while exchanging ideas and learning from experts on how to connect. They have training for both beginning and intermediate levels as well as programs for those professionals who are looking to gain certification. It is a great educational conference designed so that when the attendees leave, they have a better understanding of how to best utilize the tools we have been provided with in the past few years, as well as foster the personal connections we have already made.
Check out the website to learn more about WEC 2012:

Friday, July 27, 2012

2012 London Olympics!

Today is the day folks. We are hours away from witnessing the Opening Ceremony for the 2012 London Olympic Games. We have been waiting for the past four years. News has already been leaked as to what we might expect from the Opening Ceremony but until we see it, nothing is for certain. Not to mention, they have lots to live up to after the amazing show put on by Beijing in 2008. I hope everyone is able to tune in to watch and cheer for all the athletes. As for us, we'll be rooting for Team America!

P.S. I can't wait to see how the uniforms that Ralph Lauren has designed look in real life! Have a great weekend everyone!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Olympic Games & Social Media

In about two days, one of the most exciting events of the year will hold its Opening Ceremony: the 2012 London Olympic Games. The countdown to the games is getting close and the social media spotlight shines on the Olympics. An event of such magnitude is going to be liked via Facebook, tweeted and hashtagged via Twitter, pinned on Pinterest, and shared with more people than ever before as athletes, fans, and the general public interact online in the most connected social media environment since the Internet was born.  

Those overseeing the event are using social networks to communicate with legions of netizens, using Twitter and Facebook in particular to create hype about the Olympic Games. The sheer scale of this relatively new medium has brought up a host of challenges for organizers and the national teams as juicy details of the Opening Ceremony have already been leaked online. Facebook now has about a billion users and is growing every day. More people find out news via Facebook than actual news sources than ever before. You will be able to find out who won what race seconds after it happens. While this is proving to be a real headache for organizers, for the rest of us, we get an inside look at what athletes and fans alike are thinking via their personal Facebook and Twitter accounts. Not only are these athletes tweeting but some of them are also popular bloggers who have a legion of followers wondering what professional Olympic athletes are going through during training.

Social media is making big differences in the way we market our companies and events. Social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook have changed the way we reach out to people and the possibilities are endless. With these new changes, we have to stop and wonder how it is affecting our industry as meeting planners, how is it helpful to us as well as the challenges that may come up because of new platforms that start diminishing our roles as planners. Either way, the Olympic Games start in two days and the whole world will be tuning in via television, Twitter, Facebook, and many other social media platforms to see who is bringing home the gold. Will you be tuning in via social media?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Fashion Fridays: What To Wear Men's Edition

Last week we went over what to wear when traveling and our example was Rosie Huntington-Whiteley. This week, let’s focus on her male counterpart because you know…men are not the exception and it is not acceptable to be traveling in sweats. At least we don’t think so.
To many people, men and women alike, Ryan Gosling is a style icon. He always manages to look cool and composed in everything he does. This does not change while he is traveling. Here he wears some plain black jeans and sneaks. Black jeans or just jeans in general are a guy’s go-to for every outfit. They match with everything and are very comfortable. Ryan Gosling puts on some simple sneaks for easy on and off while going through security and to keep his feet warm because as we know, temps inflight can be downright chilly. He also dons a striped cardigan and a plain white tee to have a low key look that is still very fashion forward. He tops it off with some wayfarers and a watch for accessories.
If you do not feel comfortable donning a cardigan, you can always switch it out for a hoodie that you feel most comfortable in or a cargo type jacket that will keep you warm for the flight while still remaining fairly light. Most people want to travel comfortably but often times don’t want to look like a slob either. By emulating this look, you will look stylish and be comfortable at the same time.

Tasty Thursday: British Airways

You never quite know what you’ll get to eat on a cross-Atlantic flight.  Usually it’s an interesting mix of some sort of pasta or meat dish with some semblance of vegetables and if you’re really lucky, a nice, stale roll.  However, British Airways has introduced an innovation for in-flight food –  and it’s supposed to be delicious!

While you might think  airlines are  trying to make you miserable with their meals, low air pressure and dehydration actually cause airplane passengers to lose 30 percent of their sense of taste. Michelin-starred chef Heston Blumenthal has created the new “Height Cuisine” which was designed so that all of the meals retain their flavor even while 30,000 feet in the air.  To do this, Chef Blumenthal and his team of nutritionists, suppliers, and other chefs created meals bursting with umami, the savory taste you can find in spinach, green tea, and cheeses, which will satiate even the most taste-impaired passenger.
 After over a year and a half of experimentation, British Airways debuted the menu which includes locally sourced produce and cheese, six different wines, chocolate fondant, and a golden beet root appetizer.  Perhaps the most exciting change of all is the dinner roll – which is selected by a newly hired “bread artist” has selected breads that stay soft and fluffy for your entire flight.  
For more information, please check out:

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Wonder Wednesdays

Starting today at Meeting Sites Pro, we are starting a new series called Wonder Wednesdays. This is a new series designed to answer any questions you might have regarding the meeting planning process or anything related to meeting planning. Whether it is recommendations for a location, best way to implement something, or maybe ways to improve a process that you've been having problems with, we are here to answer your questions.

You can leave your question in the comments section or shoot us an email at admin1@meetingsitespro.com. We will feature your questions in the next week’s blog or if you didn't have any questions, we will cover frequently asked questions in our industry.

We look forward to hearing from you!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Travel Tuesdays: Going Green On The Green At Longboat Key

A lot of business gets done during tee time.  In the event that you’re doing business on the green, the course at Longboat Key Club and Resort just got a bit greener!  Longboat Key has long been a leader in green technology – incorporating resort-wide sustainable and energy saving practices for many years.  So when the resort decided to revamp their golf courses, they implemented a Green Golf Course Technology standard for golf course maintenance. 
John Reilly, the director of agronomy at Longboat Key, has spent the past two years building the course, battling near drought conditions and creating a green sanctuary.  The course uses all natural fertilizers composed of water-soluble nitrogen and filtered organic mixtures.   The lake and water areas are treated with only biodegradable applications and there is no mass application of synthetic pest control on the golf courses. 
Some other sustainability efforts made by Longboat Key include filtering the runoff from sprinklers through natural compounds which is creating a healthier environment for everyone using, visiting, and living near the course – including animals! Through the resort’s efforts to stop using synthetic fertilizers and contaminated runoff, there has been a perceptible increase in the blue crab, seabird, and other island animal population.
Longboat Key’s frequent golfers can join the sustainability efforts without messing up their game.  The club provides biodegradable tees and service ware, energy efficient golf carts, and recycled water at all rewash stations. So golfers, next time you want to join in on saving the Earth and get a beautiful round of golf in, head down to Longboat Key Resort and Club on the gulf coast of Florida – it will be the greenest game you’ve ever played!

For more information, please check out MeetingsFocus:

Monday, July 9, 2012

Meeting Mondays: Medical Meeting Magazine

Our very own CEO and founder, Michelle Bartolone, was featured in the newest issue of Medical Meetings. She recently spoke at the Pharma Forum 2012, held in March in Orlando, on a panel discussion about the effects of compliance and regulations on meetings in the pharma industry. Michelle and several other experts were able to shed some light on various topics including regulations, food & beverage caps, as well as challenges having meetings overseas. 

Click on the link here to see what she and other experts had to say.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Fashion Fridays: Airport Wear

If you’re a seasoned traveler, or even if you’re not a seasoned traveler, you probably know that traveling has gotten more and more difficult in recent years. Going through security has become more of a hassle and you’re always battling the ever present challenge of your travel apparel with the cool temps in the airplane with wanting to look chic instead of chunky. We are introducing “Fashion Fridays”, which is our new Friday series on how to look and be a fashionable traveler, while not giving up on an inch of comfort (okay, maybe just an inch or two).
Rosie Huntington-Whiteley is a perfect example of chic airport style while not giving up anything in the comfort department. She dons a comfortable but stylish bomber jacket to help her keep warm while traveling. She pairs this with a plain gray t-shirt to help balance out the bright print on her jacket. She is wearing one of her favorite pairs of booties from Rag & Bone, which are easy to slip on and off while going through security. She ties everything together with her carefully chosen accessories which include a green Celine bag which is big enough to carry various things including a scarf should she get cold, an iPad, her wallet, and maybe some small snacks. She adds a watch and some oversized sunglasses to finish off her outfit.
By keeping her accessories and her outfit fairly simple, Rosie is able to add little pops of color that add style to her ensemble while traveling comfortably and making sure that she is not troubled by going through security or chilly flight temps.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Tech Thursdays: 5 Recommended Travel Apps

The travelers of today do not leave a single detail outside of their travel arrangements.  Before visiting their destination, they investigate everything such as: best places to visit, weather forecasts, lodging, food, exchange rates if you are traveling internationally, and more.  It is as if they are their own travel agency. It is always better to plan ahead to prevent mishaps than to arrive somewhere and not be prepared or have something happen that leaves you high and dry.
In these times where we don’t go anywhere without our phones, it’s no news that when we travel we would want to have apps downloaded that would facilitate traveling.  Among those apps the following 5 have been the top apps recommended for 2012:

Cost: Free
Description: Used for: Android, BlackBerry, iPhone, iPod Touch.  This application is very simple to use and serves as a conversions calculator for currencies all over the world.

Cost: Free
Description: This app will locate your destination and provide you with the best restaurants of the area.

Cost: Free
Description: This GPS will easily find your location and give you walking information such as names of streets, compass and audio guides. It also provides the opportunity of sharing the best places in your destination with others.

Tip Calculator
Cost: $0.99
Description: Tip Calculator not only calculates a tip but has an exclusive and original Bill Split feature. Pay the right amount every single time and have fun doing it. Impress your friends with the best iPhone tip calculator around. 

Cost: $2.99
Description: This application has up to date schedules of more than 1100 airlines and 4200 airports and allows you to filter by company, location, time, date etc.  

Next time you travel don’t forget that all the information needed is at your fingertips with your mobile device.  

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

GSA Plans to Change Per Diem Standards

The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) sets per diem rates for federal government travelers and is now planning to revise the standards used to set these rates for sleeping rooms and F&B.  The American Housing & Lodging Association (AH&LA) is urging a protest and encouraging industry professionals to send letters to their local legislators.  

Currently, the GSA compiles room rate data from hotels considered to be in the "mid-price range" to determine rates for every zip code in the contiguous United States (D.C. and all states excluding Hawaii and Alaska).  "Mid-price range" hotels include independent, mid-scale, upscale, and upper upscale properties; economy and luxury hotels are omitted from the data collected as being too low- and too-high rated, respectively.  The GSA then determines the Average Daily Rate (ADR) for all locations and reduces the ADR by 5% to establish the per diem as a discounted rate.

Under the new system, the GSA would base the ADR on lower "mid-price range" hotels.  The AH&LA argues that per diem rates are already well below actual room rates and this change in methodology will intentionally and significantly reduce per diem rates across the country.  The Association believes many hotels and it's employees will be put at risk- hotels already operate at thin profit margins and a reduction in per diem rates could cause job cuts.

For more information, click here.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Cruise Along With Hornblower Cruises

Why have meetings on land when you could have it while cruising along a beautiful coast anywhere from California to New York? 
Hornblower Cruises are mostly located on the West Coast ranging from Sacramento to Long Beach. However, for their East Coast location, you can cruise along the beautiful Hudson Bay if you so desire. They do a full range of events from Sunday brunch cruises to birthday dinners. What’s better is that they are able to host corporate meetings which you can customize as little or as much as you want. They have a bevy of services that they offer from decoration to helping you coordinate what kind of menu you wish to serve.

Hornblower Cruises was started in 1980 by Terry MacCrae and a partner. However when they first started, it was called Hornblower Coach Tours. At first, doing mostly private charter groups, they started to expand and has over time become the Hornblower Cruises and Events that we know today. During this time, they were presented with various awards including “Finest Service Award” from the San Diego Convention and Visitor’s Bureau as well as Entertainment Guide’s “Most Fun” Member’s Choice Award. In 2005, they started Respect Our Planet, which is a company-wide environmental education and awareness program that tries to teach the visitors in the ports they serve about trying to reduce the impact we have on the environment.
Hornblower’s mission is to provide 100% satisfaction to 100% of their guests. Therefore, next time you are looking for a location for one of your meetings, we suggest that you be a little unconventional and have your meeting with Hornblower Cruises and Events. Visit their website today at: www.hornblower.com/hce/home