If you look back at the development of cities worldwide, most have grown outward with the focal point the main seat of government, the railway station, the main place of worship or the central marketplace where trade began. Mostly, due to the increasing need of the populace, the cities have often grown longitudinally or in circles, expanding zones of development.
I look at examples like Milan, where the area directly in front of the Duomo, with the adjoining Galleria Vittorio Emmanuelle, is the hub of much social activity with the Teatro a la Scala a stone’s throw away. Amsterdam grew outward from its railway station and Dam Square; Orlando from the Church Street Station; Philadelphia from the City Hall and Independence Square where the Liberty Bell is housed; Washington DC from the Capitol, the White House, the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials and the Monument; while Bangkok grew away and outward from the Chao Phrya river and so did Singapore from its trading hubs in Boat Quay and Clark Quay with shop houses being central to its spread. All such cities have culturally developed their core city spaces as areas where people have congregated, for celebration, for show of solidarity with causes, for concerts, and now for incentive group activity including teambuilding exercises that add some local flavour and thereby turn them into memorable experiences.
Some cases are of a treasure hunt with a group divided into teams to identify and locate traditional sweet stores near Taksim Square in Istanbul or a food and beer trail starting from the Frankfurt Hauptbahnhoff down Kaiserstrasse and the Zeil. Even corporate group activity in the Piazza Duomo in Milan during the Expo yielded significantly productive incentive and business group experiences.
One of the most spectacular and memorable is the Parliament Hill in the Canadian capital, Ottawa. The centrepiece of Ottawa’s downtown landscape, Parliament Hill is the political and cultural heart of the city covering an area of 88,480 square metres, resting between the Ottawa River to the north and Rideau Canal to the east. The Canadian Parliament buildings sit atop the Hill, the gorgeous Gothic-style structures overlooking the Ottawa River. The hill is the focal point for a number of free events and celebrations: Canada Day on July 1 sees about a hundred thousand people descend upon the landmark for entertainment and a thrilling fireworks show. Each morning during summer months, the front lawn of Parliament Hill is the setting of the daily Changing of the Guard ceremony, free yoga at noon each Wednesday during the summer and in the evening the Sound and Light show is a nightly marvel while Christmas Lights Across Canada illuminate the Hill like no other spot in the nation.
One of the most remarkable events in this space is the mass yoga exercises. Local residents as well as visitors descend upon the wide open space in front of Parliament Hill and undertake yoga exercises and lessons and this is extremely popular with incentive groups because of the unique experience.
Quite often, most of us pass through such locales unaware of the impact they, if used effectively, can have on various types of MICE group activity. Some city tourism offices actively promote these venues or locales to optimal effect and success. It may be relevant for event managers and meeting planners to look with a different perspective at places that are often missed in the search to find exotic venues. Missing the wood for the trees is very common and can be easily reversed.
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