The Worldwide Exhibition for Incentive Travel, Meetings, and Events (IMEX) is the largest trade show and hosted buyer program in the country. IMEX America just concluded its 7th year in Las Vegas this October and it was how I began my career in Incentive Travel. With over 3,200 exhibitors, 130 countries represented, and 180 education sessions available IMEX was the perfect platform for me to dive into this new world.
In 2017, you would assume the answer to this question is yes. And for the most part that is right. Technology in the meetings and events industry has transformed over the last 3-5 years with smartphone apps, websites and on site displays. However, despite providing attendees all of this technology, from event websites, to on site agenda apps and even agenda screens displaying through the property, there is still feedback that certain guests miss the hard copy agendas. With that said the days of printing one agenda on hard stock for every attendee is over, we recommend printing 20% of the attendee number and if you run out you can always print on site.
On Site Gifting Experiences
An important part of the incentive industry is the on site gifting experience. This experience continues to evolve and companies are providing more creative on site ideas. The most common experience has become the sunglasses fitting from companies such as Maui Jim, Ray Ban, Revo, and more. Another growing segment is watch gifting from high end options such as Tag and Movado to middle tier trendy companies such as MvMt to local island specialties such as the Island Watch Company. The key to on site gifting experiences is trying to match the gift with the location.
Los Cabos and Cabo San Lucas has been recovering from the 2014 Hurricane for the last few seasons and hotels are finally reopened and travelers are returning! It is currently one of our top 10 Hotel Destinations for Incentive Travel in 2018 and the all-inclusive properties can be a great fit for most MICE travel. As we mentioned in our April blog growth is the story for Cabo currently so it will be very interesting to see what it will look like in 2020 once the hotel surge is completed. The Hard Rock Los Cabos will compete in the incentive space with approx 600 rooms and 26,000 square feet of meeting space expected. And don't forget for those looking for 5 star non-all inclusive options, the Ritz Reserve, the Four Seasons, Nobu, and Montage are all opening in Cabo sooner rather than later!
Due to the Zika concerns throughout the Caribbean and South Florida plus the uncertainty in Europe, the market has seen a rise in Incentive Groups in destination with ski mountains. Many companies are deciding to stay domestic for 2017 and/or 2018 and a ski trip is a great option for companies looking for a unique experience.
These destinations have endless options for activities from the obvious skiing and snowboarding but also tubing, snowshoe, cross country skiing, snowmobiling and even dogsledding in some locations. Most of the properties below also have world-class spas and fitness facilities. The pools are heated and open year-round, the hot tubs being especially popular.
They do a great job providing those guests who aren't hitting the slopes an opportunity to still enjoy the destination with aspres ski parties, wine or whiskey tastings, Gondola rides, and cooking lessons.
Top Players In The Market
Anguilla continues to blow guests away each and every visit. The sand is pure white, the water crystal blue, food is mouth-watering and culture is friendly and laid back. The one challenge for Anguilla is the limited airlift directly into the small Anguilla airport. Most guests arrive to St. Maarten, take a 3 minute bus shuttle to the private boat dock or 10 minute walk, take a 20-25 minutes speed boat (both private or small group) over to the Anguilla boat dock, exit through Anguilla Immigration and Customs, then take a quick taxi to their hotel. The experience can take as little as 45 minutes but it's still alot of movement for only 3-4 nights. Airlift is starting to improve in season through San Juan transfers. The minute you touch land in Anguilla you will immediately realize the journey is worth it. The resurgence of major brands in 2016/2017 will lead to a continued growth of leisure and MICE Travel. The three brands, Four Seasons, Belmond, and Auberge bring a 5 star level of service to match the five star properties.
Here are a list of some of the best fit Incentive & MICE properties. For a true meeting, Anguilla is not the right fit location due to the lack of meeting space. There isn't one true traditional meeting room/AV setup on island. For incentives, its a great fit with golf, horseback riding, catamaran trips and even swim with the dolphins in the ocean.
When thinking about investing in videography/photography for your next corporate event there are 3 main factors we look at:
- Return on Investment - There are two main usages of these videos to help measure the return on investment. Clients need to spend time to promote them externally using company social media in order to see the direct ROI.
- HR Recruiting tool
- Internal promotional piece
- Dubai - "Low Investment $$" Dubai continues to be a new, hot player in the incentive market. The Dubai Tourist Board has invested in increasing Incentive Travel over the last 4 years with continued focus going forward. Over 71,000 new hotel rooms are expected to be built by 2020. There are many direct flight options from major cities all over the world so great solution for worldwide companies. The activities options are vast and unique from spending the night glamping in the desert to skiing indoors to sand boarding and even extensive camel tours. Obviously the travel time and cost of F&B are two of the drawbacks. CIT touches upon the increase of travel in mid-range locations in January's report on Incentive Travel Report: Top destination trends for 2017.
Branding at an event is considered necessary for any incentive trip. Many companies spend anywhere between 5%-10% of their budget on branding, depending on the scope of the event.
Here are some way to cut that budget by using technology and social media. Some of the old school branding will never change and is important at Gala dinners and in meeting rooms. But there are a few new branding techniques that are very low budget but can have a big impact on your next incentive trip.
As beautiful and exotic as St. Lucia is, it's unfortunately a tough fit for a typical incentive trip (3-4 nights). The main reason behind this is the distance between the airport and the hotels. There are only a few hotels who would be a good fit for any incentive trip over 50 rooms. These hotels are within a one hour drive to the airport, have over 75 rooms, have multiple dining options, and can be accessed by boat to provide day activities. Also due to the topography and roads within St. Lucia it makes transportation for dinners, activities very cost prohibitive. Pricing for transfers can be almost 60% more than most Caribbean islands.
The island does boost an impressive collection of boutique hotels that target honeymoon and romance travel but these are high budget experiences with only a limited number of rooms.