Executive Group Travel Blog

Where to Host Your Next MICE Trip: Maui

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 Hotel Reviews - Incentive Travel

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 MICE All-Inclusive Hotel Reviews

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! 

St. Thomas MICE Hotel Reviews

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.  

Conde Nast: The U.S. Virgin Islands Will Pay You to Visit in 2017

Here is a quick review of the main hotel players in the MICE market in St. Thomas.

Cold Weather Incentive Travel

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.

Anguilla Hotel Reviews for Incentive Travel

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.  

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.

Incentive Travel in Lisbon, Portugal

 This location is emerging as one of the top destinations in Europe as tourism is booming in Portugal. Incentive travel is especially on the rise in this memorable European Destination.  One of the biggest draws to Lisbon is the value for your money and ease of travel.  There is so much to experience in Lisbon and the surrounding areas that you will be planning your next trip back before you even leave.  You are able to explore the unique culture, amazing food, lively nightlife, world-class golf and tranquil beaches while not breaking the bank. 

Don't be Afraid to Modify your Incentive Program


Strategy:

Many software/tech companies host their first incentive trip when they are in the midst of an aggressive growth stage.  During this time one qualification strategy might make sense given the overall headcount and trip budget.  Over time and company growth you might find that qualification strategy no longer makes sense for your long-term corporate incentive strategy (See blog post on qualification strategies). 

Don't be afraid to continually look at your current incentive program and analyze the ROI of the program and how to increase that ROI.  Each company chooses different ways to measure the ROI of their incentive program but here is a good in depth research report on the topic:  Determining the Return on Investment of Incentive Travel Programs.  For those looking for a lighter read: Why You Should Measure Incentive ROI

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.