September 2022, Virtual
September 29 2022, Virtual
Now in its 27th year, the Business Travel Awards
I'm writing this (in considerable comfort, glass of Moet to hand) on a Royal Jordanian flight from Amman to London, returning from an enlightening trip; my first visit to Jordan.
Let’s start with last impressions: I left Queen Alia International airport in the shadow of a big construction site: a large, impressive new terminal building – undulating waves of architectural glass and concrete designed by Foster + Partners. In Royal Jordanian’s spacious and well-appointed Crown lounge, they’re already excited about the sparkling bells-and-whistles one which will replace it in the new terminal building.
This wasn't a surprise after a fascinating few days seeing how the country is developing its international MICE product while retaining an authentic cultural vibe infused with thousands of years of history: with colourful, bustling street life and a landmark round every corner straight from the pages of the Bible or Koran (usually both), it feels a world away from the six-star sterility of some Gulf states.
What else is new?
For incentives and events, the stark otherworldly beauty of the Wadi Rum desert can be transformed into champagne receptions and gala dinners complete with candle-lit red carpets, grand pianos played under the stars and luxury Bedouin en-suite tents for overnight stays. I'm told these receptions have been hosted for 1,000 guests – I guess looking at the size of the desert, capacity is only limited by budget. A 100km north is UNESCO site and New7Wonders of the World member, the magical ancient city of Petra. It is not available for private events, but 15 minutes away is Little Petra, which offers a range of spectacular options for corporate wow-factor.
The Movenpick Petra is right by the entrance to the main site, and is a gorgeous little hotel (actually it has 183 rooms, but has a boutique feel): lots of intricate pearl-inlaid Syrian furniture and Arabic chandeliers, sunny pool terrace, chic roof-garden bar and barbecue. A series of Nobel laureates events in recent years mean guests in the royal suites have included the likes of Bill and Hillary Clinton, Kofi Annan and King Abdullah II.
Meanwhile, in case anyone thinks things are vastly different here in the Middle East, the conference floor at the Grand Hyatt in Amman was all a-buzz and a-flutter with excited young wannabes doing vocal warm-ups: auditions for the Jordanian version of BBC TV talent show The Voice.