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As the city with the famous zipcode celebrates its 100th anniversary, Paul Revel looks at the ultimate A-list meetings destination
Beverly Hills is celebrating its centenary this year. Founded in 1914, it has been a byword for stardom and celluloid dreams ever since.
Now with a population of more than 34,000, it has always been an independent city, despite being within the greater Los Angeles county. Karissa Fowler at the Beverly Hills Conference and Visitors Bureau (BHCVB) says the city was founded following the opening of the Beverly Hills Hotel in 1912. “The hotel was marketed as being halfway between Hollywood and the sea. It became an escape from Hollywood for celebrities, who started flocking there. They then built homes in the area, and people began to follow.” She says early advocates for the city included silent screen stars Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks and Will Rogers.
Being Beverly Hills, the BHCVB’s offering of creative events has a certain amount of stardust you wouldn’t necessarily find in other destinations around the world. Here are a few examples of what it can offer: celebrity cooking demos and tasting dinners with superstar chefs such as Wolfgang Puck and Thomas Keller; TV studio tapings such as The Ellen DeGeneresShow and Tonight with Jay Leno... you get the picture. Tickets to the Golden Globes, anyone?
To mark the centenary, five of the city’s most luxurious hotels have each created a ‘Suite 100’ in one of their top-tier guest rooms. Each is themed from a different decade. At the Peninsula, it’s 1990s Hollywood glamour, with shiny red leather armchairs, a Swarovski crystal chandelier and mirrored finishes reflecting the witty wall murals of flashbulbs and jostling paparazzi on red carpets. The other four participating properties encompass different eras and themes, such 1940s film noir at the Montage, and Marilyn Monroe-era ‘golden-age’ 1950s at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Peninsula sales director Rob Roche says: “The centenary is creating a big buzz. We are receiving a lot of exposure locally, nationally and globally. Each hotel has gone all out to make this programme the best it can be.”
So who holds events in Beverly Hills, and why? Anthony Paola is director of meetings operations, sales and strategy for Meetings IQ, a division of US travel management giant Travel Leaders Corporate. He says that Beverly Hills attracts “high-end incentives and business meetings, as well as entertainment industry events of all shapes and sizes”. He adds: “Companies that want to stay within the US seek out this venue to showcase an award-type of event for their internal stakeholders, sales producers, and key contributors to the company’s bottom line.”
At the moment the overall trend for meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) is “slow and steady growth”, says Paola. Roche, at the Peninsula, sees an overall corporate ratio of 60 per cent, with business clients from the Fortune 500 companies. He says meetings tend to be at senior partner and board level, requiring the exclusivity of a smaller hotel. Group bookings are becoming more last-minute, and he sees a rise in ‘bleisure’ travel – business travellers extending their stays and being joined by families.
American Airlines was also alluding to its relationship with the film industry when it launched its premium-focused transcontinental A321 flights on the LAX-JFK route this year: the service was strategically launched during the film industry awards season, with an advertising campaign featuring images of vintage stars, such as Grace Kelly and Gregory Peck, alongside those of modern-day actors, such as Julianna Margulies and Neil Patrick Harris.
The Wallis Annenberg Centre for the Performing Arts, which opened in October last year with a star-studded gala, is a community project designed by Zoltan Pali that incorporates the 1934 Italianate-style Post Office building. It has a range of events spaces for up to 500 participants.
For a memorable MICE venue with a dash of Hollywood drama, Greystone Mansion was built in 1928 and has featured in dozens of movies over the years. It has spectacular settings, both inside and outside in the acres of formal gardens. Another popular option for high-end events is the wide choice of desirable restaurants that offer private events spaces, including Bouchon, Spago and Mastro’s Steakhouse. An unusual and distinctive venue is the Galerie Michael on Rodeo Drive, featuring exquisite works by artists including Picasso, Chagall and Miró.
As the world’s entertainment capital, Beverly Hills openings tend to attract drama and excitement in the hospitality industry. When Waldorf Astoria recently announced a new 170-room property in the city, the Hilton brand’s global head, John Vanderslice, said it was “one of the most highly anticipated developments in our portfolio”, and continued by succinctly summing up the destination: “Beverly Hills is synonymous with luxury.”