Every time a tech company brings up Las Vegas for their annual sales kickoff event I cringe. As a millennial myself, I understand the excitement of the bright lights and hoopla of Las Vegas. It's great for bachelor/bachelorette parties, 21st birthday tilts, 40th birthday celebrations, March Madness reunions, poker events, and even an annual family vacation. It truly is one of the most remarkable .8 miles in the world in terms of man-made “wow factor.”
Officially known as Hawaii, the Big Island is the largest of the Hawaii islands with over 4,000 mi². Due to the size of the island there are two main airports that travelers use, Kona and Hilo. The airlift into the Big Island is strong from the West Coast and even International with daily direct flights from San Francisco, LAX, Portland, Seattle, and Tokyo. Many large companies such as Salesforce, SAP, and Oracle host annual events on the Big Island each year therefore the hotel product is continually improving to keep up with MICE travel industry demand.
Kauai is Hawaii's fourth largest island and is sometimes referred to as the "Garden Island," which is an accurate description. This island is known for outdoor adventures, laid back atmosphere, and Hollywood films. There are amazing companies that provide unique experiences to Kauai. A few outdoor adventure partners are Kipu Ranch Adventures offers 4x4 off-road adventures, Maverick Helicopter Tours, and Kauai Backcountry Adventures Mountain Tubing Tours. Airlift is continuing to improve into the small airport, Lihue Airport, on Kauai but is still the most challenging of the four islands to fly into.
With the increase in number of flights and the price drop on airline tickets, Hawaii continues to be a busy destination for incentive travel. For those with travelers' attending from Europe, the flight distance is still a challenge but for those with offices in Australia it could be a great middle meeting grounds. We will explore the hotel products on the islands of Maui, Big Island, and Kauai over the next month of blogs.
Annual Sales Kickoff:
Many tech companies host an annual sales kickoff every January or February to help recap the previous year, set goals for the upcoming year, and announce new product launches. These kickoffs have evolved from traditional Webex meetings with content delivered to live, hands on sales trainings and/or simulation tests. With the shift in these kickoffs comes many added costs. Webex/Zoom is the low cost non personalized solution that allows companies to share their updates and changes in a concise meeting format up to 3 hours. Anything over the battery life of a computer and you start losing attendees on the other side of the screen. And to be honest after 70 minutes you lose the focus of a majority of dial-in participants. The more popular solution today is getting employees together for a 3-4 day intensive kickoff event. An important part of these events and the shift towards in person events is the positive effect on company culture. What better way to boost employee morale and get your employees to "drink the Kool aid" than put them together for 3 days in a sales training environment during the day and at night social networking events. Most kickoffs only include 4-8 hours of content and the rest has moved to a more hands-on experience. So this all leads to the most common asked question of meeting planners. Where should we go next year?
And unfortunately for most growing tech companies this comes 6-9 months before their 300-600 person event! The tech market is constantly changing with IPO's, funding, and acquisitions so meeting planning time-frames have continued to shrink while cash is watched more closely.
Grand Cayman is the largest of the three Cayman Islands and the best fit for MICE travel. Unfortunately due to limited meeting space the Caymans are a better fit for Incentive Travel over meetings or conferences unless those are under 250 guests. Grand Cayman has seen a recent surge of business in the last two years given the lack of Zika concerns and also having been missed by Hurricane Irma. The recent renovation of the Westin, current Margaritaville project and Kimpton new build has increased the number of resort hotel rooms available to help keep up with demand. One key factor in choosing the island of Grand Cayman is safety. It is said to be one of the safest islands in the Caribbean in terms of violence, theft, and also food/water quality.
Force Majeure Clause:
Force Majeure Clauses have continued to evolve over the past decade and is currently one of the most negotiated clauses in hotel contracts. The reason for this is the recent surge in natural disasters such as floods and hurricanes, along with an increased amount of terrorist attacks. Also there has been a recent surge in travel warnings for risks such as Zika Virus and civil unrest in the past 18 months.
Let’s start with a definition of Force Majeure before we jump into further detail.
Jonathan T. Howe, Esq is an expert on this subject and has published a great industry resource on the Meetings & Conventions site:
In this piece he defines Force Majeure as:
“The legal concept of force majeure (French for “greater force”) means impossible to perform. Thus, if a force majeure circumstance makes it impossible for the parties to fulfill their contracted duties, they are relieved of any liability for failing to perform because of the intervention of the superior force. But the inability to fulfill contract terms is excused only for the duration of the force majeure circumstance.”
Due to the improved airlift into Salt Lake City from the East Coast, Park City, Utah has become a top choice for both winter ski vacations and spring/summer outdoor adventures. Park City, Utah is just a quick 35 minutes from the Salt Lake City airport and has both Park City Mountain Resort and Deer Valley Resort, as well as the Utah Olympic Park. Guests can enjoy a bucket list experience of a Bobsled ride or explore Park City from above through hot air balloon rides. Historic Main Street has been revived with restaurants, bars, shops, and art galleries. It's one of the top upcoming destinations in the US for year round adventure options!
Overall Jamaica is a somewhat disappointing location in terms of hotel products for MICE travel. The hotel product is a step down from Cancun and Punta Cana and unfortunately the service is a further step down. The beaches lack the beauty of Punta Cana and the hotels lack the elegance of the 5 star Cancun/Riviera Maya properties. The one benefit is the water/food is a step up from the two other locations. Guests are less likely to get sick but still encouraged to only drink bottled water. The airlift is also a little quicker from most East coast cities.
There are a few different approaches when trying to set your flight budget for next years trip or even a trip 24 months away. There will always be some risk when it comes to flight cost but there are options to help mitigate the risk. Flight costs are constantly changing and in the last few years they have trended downwards due to competition but airlines are now fighting back by introducing basic economy fares at essentially no lower fares. This will increase ancillary revenue to the airlines in the short term. Plus some experts in the industry are predicting airline prices are expected to rise in the near future. Here is a great article from Meetings & Conventions on the 2018-2019 forecast: Meetings Industry Forecast 2018.