Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

September 2013

Going Dutch: Five Days, Four Cities in Holland

By Christopher Durso, Executive Editor
square feet, many of them offering views of the harbor and the Meuse river, which, like Maastricht, Rotterdam straddles.

Those views are certainly enticing, so I was happy that we rode a fast-moving water taxi to our next destination, the driver gunning along the Meuse before steering us on a gradual arc that took us to the SS Rotterdam. Launched in 1958, the 750-foot, 39,000-ton ocean liner is now a permanently moored, 254-room hotel and conference venue that can accommodate groups of up to 3,500 people with 16,000 square feet of event space, including breakout rooms, board rooms, “Mad Men”–era bars and lounges, a 500-person theater, and the 1,400-square-foot Grand Ballroom.

Our next mode of transport was a tuk-tuk — a sort of three-wheeled, motorized rickshaw popular in some Dutch cities — which zipped us over to the Wilhelmina Pier, a former dock from which many ships left for the United States during the late-19th and early-20th centuries. Today the pier is home to some of Rotterdam’s tallest, most modern buildings, helping give the city its local nickname “Manhattan on the Maas.”

Six venues on the pier have banded together to market themselves as Congress Island. We met with representatives of the initiative at one of the venues — Hotel New York, which occupies the former headquarters of the Holland America Line, the passenger line that transported hundreds of thousands of people to the United States from all over Europe. The 72-room property has seven high-ceilinged meeting rooms, and is steeped in the history of Holland America, with large turn-of-the-century photos of blank-faced emigrants, original boardroom furnishings, and other period décor. The other venues making up Congress Island are the 1,535-seat Luxor Theatre; the solar-powered Floating Pavilion, consisting of three experimental “hemispheres” that are designed as examples of sustainable, “climate-change-proof” architecture; the historic Cruise Terminal Rotterdam, with a variety of function spaces; LP2, in the Las Palmas “cultural warehouse,” with a 4,100-square-foot exhibit hall and a 150-person auditorium; and LantarenVenster, a cinema house with five screening rooms and a multifunction hall.

My final trip in Rotterdam was also via tuk-tuk, to Witt de Withstraat, a lovely street lined with cafés, art galleries, restaurants - and Hopper, a bright, casual coffee shop where my Rotterdam Marketing escort and I enjoyed fresh sandwiches and good, strong coffee. Then it was back to Rotterdam Central for an express train to Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, and my flight home, during which I realized, belatedly and somewhat sheepishly, that I hadn’t learned a word of Dutch during my entire trip. Everyone I met — not just the hospitality and travel professionals who hosted me, but everyone — spoke perfect English. It’s one of the many things that make Holland friendly and welcoming, and primed for international business.

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