Executive Group Travel Blog

10 Hot Destinations for Incentive Travel in 2018

Thankfully Zika concerns have regressed in the last 9 months but we still have seen companies moving their focus outside of the Caribbean in 2017 and 2018 when it comes to Incentive Travel Planning.
    1. 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 Your Next Incentive Trip

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.

St. Lucia & Incentive Travel

Transfer Distances:

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.

5 Rules to Perfect Your Next Incentive Trip

Incentive Travel:

Each year thousands of companies host an annual corporate incentive trip to help reward their employees for meeting and/or exceeding expectations.  Companies can either plan these trips internally or use a third party to help with the planning but at the end of the day there are a few important factors that are relevant across the board. 

Punta Cana Incentive Travel - New Player to the Game

All Inclusive Focus - Four Five Star Property Comparisons

Secrets Cap Cana (Set to Open Nov 2016):

This is a brand new capstone property scheduled to open mid November of this year with approximately 450 rooms.  The breakdown is expected to be 55 tropical view (Run of House) with another ~50 with partial oceanviews (these are NOT oceanfront, think very small oceanview).  This property is planning 14 different room categories so it will be interesting to see if this changes in the upcoming year.  The location on Cap Cana is secluded and breath-taking.  The white sand beach, crystal blue waters and feeling of seclusion will blow you away for a Dominican Republic product.  Similar to Paradisus Palma Real the infinity pool is again the centerpiece of this hotel and will be the perfect gathering place for incentive trips. 

  • Few Highlights
    1. Size - Small Horse shoe feel that incentive trips are looking for
    2. Location - Cap Cana
    3. Brand New - chic clean South Beach design
    4. Meeting Space ~10,000 Square Feet
    5. 15 minutes from airport
    6. Golf & Scape Park ~5 minutes away
  • Few potential drawbacks
    1. Couples/Honeymoon Focus
    2. Lack of Double Bed Rooms
    3. Service TBD (could take awhile to get organized and experienced)
    4. Food TBD (bar is set high with Paradisus Palma Real)

Incentive Gifts - Life After Maui Jim

Gifting Experience:

An important aspect of every incentive trip is the gift process.  Many companies provide a thank you gift for each attendee and others only for the internal corporate qualifier who attends the trip.  It's an additional way to show your appreciation for your employees' hard work and leave them with a memento from the trip.  

Maui Jim has become the leader in this category and provides a top notch on site experience.  The product is around $200 in budget per attendee, it's easy to transport, has low minimums (~24 pairs of sunglasses) and usually fits within the beach and/or tourism theme.   Their display and experience is simple and quick to setup but leaves a lasting impression on each attendee.  They have the ability to custom the cases and cleaning cloths to provide a branded look.  And the best part is they handle all of the customs, taxes, and shipping proocess!

Unfortunately its usually not a product you can offer each year to the same group of attendees.  Some clients choose to work with Maui Jim every other year, some every three years.  Fact is people lose sunglasses so its easy to keep Maui Jim in rotation for your President's Club.  Maui Jim does run into a few competitors in the sunglasses market with on site experience but we have found Maui Jim is a step above the competition.  Most of the rest of the competitiors on site experience is performed by a third party, not the brand itself.

Is it too early for 2018 planning?

Market Demand:

Given the current demand in the incentive market it is never too early to get started on your 2018 incentive trip or sales kickoff event.  The next 3 months is your ideal time to get that contract negotiated.  Busy hotels such as The Breakers in Palm Beach, Fairmont Bermuda, and Ritz Aruba are already booked out into 2019 for busy dates.  Many repeat conferences and company events book out 3 years ahead to secure ideal dates and meeting space, especially in the finance and insurance world. 

We recommend focusing on your RFP process 18 months before your next incentive trip or sales kickoff event.  The larger your room block and meeting space needs, the longer time you need to give yourself to secure space.  This is especially true if your dates are not flexible.  For needs over 200 rooms we recommend almost 2 years ahead of time if you are looking during a busy time in that destination.  If you wait until 14 months before you are going to run into an influx of other meeting planners/internal event teams submitting RFP's which forces quick decision turnarounds (1st versus 2nd option holds), drives up prices, and makes negotiations tougher. 

Employee Engagement - Value of Competition


As more millennials join the workforce and baby boomers retire, it is a good time to refresh your employee engagement strategy.  According to CNN, millennials expect to have four jobs by the time they are 32. This means that by the time it takes an employee to get fully ramped up, on average 18 months, the employee will already be getting ready to apply for their next job. On boarding not only costs the company a lot of money, but also a lot of resources. Here are some tips on how to keep employees engaged in a genuine way.

Turks and Caicos Incentive Travel

The Island:

Providenciales is a beautiful island in Turks and Caicos that is just a quick (2-3 hour) flight from the East Coast. 

What makes Providenciales so impressive is the small boutique hotels which minimizes the crowds on the beach.  Unfortunately this boutique feel makes this island a tough fit for incentive travel.  There is only one 4 Star + hotel that has over 200 rooms and that is an all-inclusive family packed Beaches resort.  The average hotel size is around 60 rooms and most are owned condos placed in a rental pool.  For small incentive trips under 40 rooms this island is great option with white sand beaches, 18 hole golf course, boating options, serene spas, kayaking trips, windsurfing lessons and endless amounts of culinary options.

Highlights Include:

  • World-Class Wall Scuba-Diving
  • Grace Bay Beach - White Sand and Crystal Clear Waters
  • Winter Whale Watching
  • Off-shore Snorkeling

One & Only Club Resort, Nassau, Bahamas Updates

Recent Changes:

The One & Only Club Resort in the Bahamas completed renovations in 2015 and the property continues to Wow guests.

Already an impressive 5 star resort, the recent changes only increased the value for both independent travelers and incentive travel.  If you have the budget for this property, this is a no-brainer with world-class golf, inspiring culinary cuisine, unique Versailles gardens and pool, intimate and private accommodations and award-winning spa.  The upgrades to the Hartford Wing and addition of the infinity pool and Ocean Grill increases the allure for the millennial traveler.  

Three main upgrades to the property:

  • New Ocean Infinity Pool
  • Hartford Wing Upgrades
  • Ocean Grill Opening