Bright and early (3:30AM to be exact), I woke up and headed to London Gatwick ready for my first M&I Forum in Benidorm, Spain. Three days full of meetings, activities, the occasional beer and of course networking with 274 other MICE professionals across three beautiful hotels. Our host’s were Asia Gardens Hotel & Thai Spa, Meliá Villaitana and Grand Luxor Hotel with myself staying at the latter. With the afternoon to ourselves I explored the Egyptian themed grounds of the hotel before heading into the onsite theme park Terra Mitica which had been opened especially for us to enjoy before the opening reception.
Never one to turn down a roller coaster, I quickly found myself sat in the front of pretty much all of them, and when the person next to you grabs your hand it quickly breaks the ice. We were then treated to a live action Spartacus performance outside the park's custom built Colosseum and welcomed into the stunning Iberica Village for an evening of tapas, flamenco dancing and live music to get us all in the party spirit.
Day one of meetings was at the Asia Gardens Hotel, 15-minute speed dating style meetings with 15 suppliers from across Europe, the Middle East, Asia and the Americas. Everything from Hotels, to DMC’s to Tourist boards filled the room with a huge variety of MICE professionals from all over the world. Looking towards our planning for 2020 and beyond it was great to speak to so many great venues with my focus for the day being Europe and the Middle East.
The afternoon was filled with a variety of activities at the three host hotels, golf clinics, networking by the pool, and a range of different fitness classes gave us all the chance to see what else the hotels had to offer.
Our night tonight, was hosted by the Melia Alicante, a short 40-minute drive from Benidorm, with views overlooking the Mediterranean coast and a night of cocktails, nibbles and networking was a lovely end to a busy first full day. Highlight of the evening has to be however the bus journey back to the hotel. I should have known that being on the last bus it was hardly going to be a quiet ride home; I didn’t however expect to be witness to our very own Eurovision song contest. Various members of the bus took to the mic to lead sing alongs throughout the journey and by unanimous decision the UK actually managed to win! Shout out to the UK team for finally bringing it home (you know who you are).
New day, new venue, today we moved to the Melia and I was blown away by the beauty of this venue. With an authentic Spanish feel, vast lagoon-style pools and an 18-hole golf course, this was definitely the venue of the week for me. More meetings with more fantastic vendors, followed by our offsite activity, which for me just happened to be a two-and-a-half-hour catamaran tour and round the coast with plenty of beer and wine to keep us all well lubricated. The weather up till today had been up and down but thankfully the sun came out and with a beer in my hand and the wind in my face, it was the perfect afternoon after what had been an intense two days.
A quick turn around and it was off to the closing party, dressed to impress for the gala dinner, again at the Meliá Villaitana. A beautiful evening, with the sun coming down behind us, the Greatest Showman inspired entertainment in the courtyard got the party atmosphere started before a cracking three course meal and one or two more drinks... Finally heading down to underground nightclub to dance the night away (all choosing to forget we had 14 more meetings the morning).
Weary eyed the final day of meetings was at my host hotel and actually turned out to be my best day of the three. Productive conversations with some fantastic suppliers made the morning fly by and before we all knew it, it was all over. All that was left to do was grab some lunch and head to the pool for a couple of hours of sun to at least get a little bit of a tan before jumping on a plane and heading back to lovely old London town.
4 full on days of informative meetings, lots of laughs, great networking, with some incredible relationships forged. Yes, I am still getting over it and yes, my voice still hasn’t recovered but it was all worth it for a fantastic first M&I Forum! Big thank you to our host hotels, M&I for organising it all and of course to the “Cool table” for making sure I didn’t end up eating alone :)
Here’s to the next one!