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April 2011Conference+Meetings World www.c-mw.net31Liz Spearingfinds Marbella reinventing itself for international meetings and events.Marbellissima!Nobody could deny that Marbella haswrangled with a few 'imageproblems' over the last 20 years.The exclusive resort of the 1950's whichbrought the likes of Audrey Hepburn, AvaGardner, Grace Kelly, the Kennedys andRothschilds flocking underwent a fewchanges of demographic in terms of visitor.Generally, they were not for the good.(Sincere apologies to any UK ex-patplasterers, WAG (footballers' wives andgirlfriend) wannabes, or ex-convicts fromEurope who may be reading this article). Perhaps, like Katie Price after a vat ofmake-up remover, the real beauty ofMarbella is once again emerging. MichelleObama was one recent famous visitor to thecapital of 'Europe's Florida'.One of the primary players in the re-birthing has been José Luis Hernández,Head of the Marbella Tourist Office, broughtin to clean up after the corruption scandalof 2006, and clean up he certainly has. It'sno exaggeration to say that you could eatyour churros off the polished pavements ofthe picturesque old town and there is clearevidence that Marbella is once more in theascendancy, reporting a 12 per centincrease in overnight stays last summer andthe highest tourism figures for five years.While leisure tourism is all well and good,more than ever, Marbella means business.'Marbella: Make a wish' was the sloganunder which the rebranding process waslaunched, so get your checklist out.Ask anybody in the town: 'Why Marbella?'and their first response, at least those fromNorthern Europe, is usually: "The weather",but, facile though this may seem, for overallmotivational feel-good factor and break-outopportunities, a bit of blue sky and warmsunshine can't be overestimated. On the subject of incentive andteambuilding opportunities, Marbella spoilsyou for choice, 48 golf courses on the coast,all within a 30-minute drive, top-class spafacilities, 4x4 trips around the Sierra de lasNievas natural park, paragliding, jet-skiing,the list is long. For those preferring toventure round Luis Vuitton, Versace, D&G,Dior or Gucci, why not stroll around PuertoBanus, and sample the tapas and Rioja too.Culture and history aplenty are also to befound in the old town, with Plaza de losNaranjos at its heart. There is a (very)Moorish fort and Roman remains.Marbella is accessible in under three hoursfrom pretty much anywhere in Europe andlow cost airline connections, cheap car hireand highly competitive accommodationrates are helping to make Marbella a stand-out choice where budget is a consideration.Much investment has taken place over thelast couple of years. The five-star PuentoRomano and the Gran Melia Don Pepehotels have smart meetings facilities, as dothe re-opened Los Monteros and theCongress Centre Incosol Hotel.There are good conference facilities, also,in the Hotel Fuerte Marbella and VenueVasari Resort.The H10 Andalucia Plaza is a gemlocated opposite the Puerto Banús marina.Recently refurbished, the hotel has bright,avant-garde décor and offers nine functionrooms, including the Castilla Suite, whichseats 550 theatre-style. The hotel'sDespacio Spa Centre offers Turkish bathsand treatments to help you unwind afterthat business meeting.The Marbella Conference Centre issituated in the heart of town and has twolarge event areas, an upper 3,200sqmexhibition hall, a congress hall, three otherconference rooms and six committee rooms. Caught between the rock of Gibraltar andMalaga, Marbella is certainly not a hardplace for conferencing. The local conference bureau lists thetown's key attractions for delegates:. Good accessibility. Nearby MalagaAirport is the third biggest internationalairport on the Spanish peninsula. ItsTerminal 3 was inaugurated in March 2010.. Excellent weather. Average temperatueis 15-20 degrees.. The biggest concentration of five-starhotels in Spain. The Costa del Sol is also known as the Costa del Golf, with more than 50 golf courses.CITY FOCUSThe H10 Andalucia PlazaThe late king of Saudi Arabiareputedly spent ?80m on his summerholidays in Marbella, inviting 3,000friends. Atletico Madrid long-time Chairman,the colourful entrepreneur Jesus Gil yGil, was a former Mayor of Marbella. A rich offer for incentives and healthygastronomy. Andalucia is the largestproducer of olive oil in the world chefDani García has two Michelin Stars athis Restaurant Calima within the GranMeliá Don Pepe Hotel.Andalusian cities Granada, Córdoba,and Seville are all easy to visit. Marbella marvels