Out of the boardroom

1 Jun 2005 by business traveller


Debate in the dunes
Imagine watching falcons soar and swoop at sunrise, riding a doughty camel at dusk or spotting the once-endangered Arabian oryx drink delicately from a watering hole. It's all possible at the multi-awarded Al Maha Resort, recognised not only for impeccable service but also for its tireless efforts to conserve the desert ecosystem and wildlife. 
Set in a 2.25sqkm reserve, the Emirates Group-owned property features 40 free-standing suites with their own plunge pools and sun decks and the latest Bluetooth technology. While only 45 minutes from Dubai, via a superb highway, the surrounding sand dunes and ever-changing skyscape help create a splendid sense of isolation that's perfect for a staff retreat or company outing.  Yielding finally to increasing demand for meetings – especially from a regional clientele – the management of Al Maha opened last year the Al Majlis conference facility, which is versatile enough to be transformed into a boardroom, conference or theatre-style setting. During less busy periods, the cosy Library in the main building can also be lent out for a small conference.
Capacity From 40 to 90 people in the conference building. About 16 to 20 people in the Library.
Contact Al Maha Desert Resort, PO Box 7631, Dubai, UAE, tel +971 832 9070,www.al-maha.com.


Teamwork in the tower
Lead your team to challenging heights – hold your next direction-shaping event at Macau Tower's 60th floor observation lounge, 233m above the ground.The spacious indoor deck, boasting marble floors and panoramic windows, can be closed to the public in order to host that board meeting or classroom-style session.
You could test your staff's willingness to walk on the wild side by signing them up for Skywalk X, created by AJ Hackett of bungee jumping fame, which is conducted on the outside observation platform on the 61st floor. The stroll, which takes place on a 1.8m-wide walkway on the rim encircling the tower, looks scarier than it actually is – even with the lack of handrails. To give you some comfort, there are nine other similar sites around the world, all boasting a flawless safety record. Cocktails round off this unforgettable day of adventure.    
Capacity From 20 to 50 people. However, closing the venue for the whole day could cost between US$4,500/£2,348 and US$6,400/£3,339 including catering.
Contact Macau Tower, Largo da Torre, Macau, SAR, China, tel +853 988 8893,www.macautower.com.mo.


Tea and empathy
Ryokans – those exquisite traditional Japanese inns – now want to prove they can do more than offer good sleep and aesthetic surroundings. Members of the pioneering Luxury Ryokan Collection, conceptualised by hoteliers Cecilia Tee and Hiroki Fukunaga, are actively promoting their meeting facilities. Hardware may not be state-of-the-art – usually just an LCD projector, screen, whiteboard, overhead projector with most guestrooms still restricted to dial up – but the exceptional service and authentic Japanese hospitality with its attendant rituals of the bath and tea ceremony is certain to charm the most jaded corporate traveller. Additional perks such as escorted tours, interpretation, free mobile phones and a selection of wines form part of the overall service.
Capacity From 20 to 100 people, depending on the ryokan.
Contact Luxury Ryokan Collection, tel +852 3110 3638,www.luxuryryokan.com.


Cloud conferencing
If you have some sensitive issues to thrash out and need some privacy and comfort, one sophisticated option is to hire a Bombardier private jet for an air cruise to nowhere.
While certainly not cheap – a five-hour session from Hong Kong or Singapore on a Bombardier Learjet 45 can cost from US$16,000/£8,349 – total privacy is assured. The firm's Global Express model, featuring the E-cabin, has been described as a virtual "office in the sky" with its state-of-the-art telecommunications, internet connectivity and entertainment theatre that includes DVD, VHS and CD-rom. And should you need to check how your stocks are doing, tune in to Airshow Network which is carried on board.
Capacity From four to 12 people.
Contact Bombardier Skyjet International, 18 Harbour Road, Central Plaza, Suite 2003A Wanchai,www.skyjetinternational.com


Deals on wheels
For the ultimate meeting experience, why not take up a whole private train carriage?
Great Southern Railway, operator of transport legends The Ghan, Indian Pacific and The Overland, has several unique products: the Chairman's Carriage, Prince of Wales Carriage, Sir John Forest Carriage, Sir Hans Heysen Carriage and Governors' Lounge. These can be hooked up to the great trains with specific routes across Australia.
While all the carriages have spaces for small meetings and receptions, it's the Sir John Forrest Carriage – named after the famous explorer who opened up Western Australia – that has a dedicated boardroom for 12 persons, equipped with video/DVD and Powerpoint screening facilities and a bar.
The Chairman's Carriage boasts its own dining room, kitchen facilities and private chef, which comes at extra cost.
Capacity From four to 10 in-house passengers, depending on the carriage. 
Contact Great Southern Railway, PO Box 445 Marleston BC, Marleston SA 5033, tel +61 8 8213 4535,www.trainways.com.au¦

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