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.
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.
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!
Overall St. Thomas and the USVI's overall have struggled in the MICE space. The reason behind this is the high number of timeshares compared to hotel rooms. In 2017 they ran some great incentives to drive tourism to USVI's but most of this focus was on leisure travel instead of incentive travel.
Here is a quick review of the main hotel players in the MICE market in St. Thomas.
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.
- 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.