Executive Group Travel Blog

10 Hot Destinations for Incentive Travel in 2018

[fa icon="clock-o"] May 10, 2017 12:00:00 AM [fa icon="user"] Marci McCormack [fa icon="folder-open'] Travel Recommendations, Incentive Travel

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.
    2.  Iceland - "Not slowing down" Tourism is booming like crazy in Iceland largely in part to the excellent airlift from many parts of the world.  Just last week they announced a new route from Tel Aviv.  It’s a quick red eye flight from the East Coast and also a short flight from many destinations in Europe.  The northern lights is definitely one major attraction for 4-5 months a year but this destination has continued to become a year round attraction due to the hot springs and endless amounts of adventure sports.   The ideal trip for this location is 3-5 days if you are focusing just on the capital region for 5-7 days if you are looking to rent a car and want adventure.  The extremely long days allows you to fit in tons of activities over a short trip.   The food still has some improvement to go and hotels are continually being built.  They are currently lacking the 5 star options for mid size incentive groups but there are plenty of boutique options near town within walking distance to bars, restaurants and nightlife.  Overall a great option for companies with both East Coast offices and European offices.  But keep in mind that activity and transfer costs will be high for any incentive trips in Iceland!

    3. Aruba - "The ole faithful" - Aruba continues to drive high demand for Incentive Travel especially in 2018, 2019, and 2020 as Zika news is tailing off.  Unlike some of the surrounding Caribbean islands, the local residents of Aruba understand the importance of tourism to their economy so they provide top service in a friendly manner.  The hotels are constantly renovating and the addition of the Ritz-Carlton in 2013 as a 5 star offering has increased the incentive demand significantly.  The property is already booking into 2020 for some popular President's Club weeks!  Outside the Ritz there are still 2-3 properties who are great fits for mid-size incentive groups.  Overall the island is safe, the drinking water is clean and there is plenty to do from casinos, nightclubs, catamaran cruises, UTV tours, golf, hiking, and white sand beaches.  The weather is good year round and the dessert climate limits the need for elaborate tents for back-up space.  Only downfall is the sun is extremely strong and many visitors leave the island sporting a red sunburn.

    4. Los Cabos, Mexico - "5 Star Luxury" - The Cabo San Lucas and Los Cabos area of Mexico is one of the biggest growth regions in terms of new 5 star hotels.  It will be very interesting to see what this location 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 options, the Ritz Reserve, the Four Seasons, Nobu, and Montage are all opening in Cabo sooner rather than later!  Grand Velas was recently opened as a 5 star all-inclusive property with 300 sleeping rooms, over 16,000 square feet of meeting space, and a world-class spa.  However, this option comes with a significant price tag topping over $1,000 per night for double occupancy.   The Hyatt Ziva is also an impressive all-inclusive option for those looking to stay close to the airport but still beach side with amble meeting space and a much more friendly price tag.  The hardest choice in Cabo is picking the hotel as there are so many great options and even more popping up.  Forbes wrote a great article back in 2015 regarding Cabo's growth and we have seen that increase ten fold!  The airlift is still a challenge from the East Coast but each year it's becoming easier as more hotels open.  For West Coast and MidWest, this location is a no-brainer for Incentive Travel.  

    5. Lisbon, Portugal - "Value and Culture" - The location provides the best value for your money in Europe right now for US East Coast companies.  The food and wine is impressive and affordable, the culture is lively, the destination is safe and the hotels are affordable.  For East Coast companies it is our top recommendation for those looking to explore outside US territory.  The Four Seasons Ritz is in need of some renovations but it is still an old time classic with impeccable service, impressive rooftop gym and relaxing spa/indoor pool area.  Check out our recent blog post on incentive travel in Lisbon, Portugal.

    6. Marco Island - "Renovated Resurgence" - The JW Marriott was recently reopened under the new branding and this destination is already selling deep into 2019, some dates into 2020.  The lack of Zika concerns has lead to an increase in traffic to this destination.  Also the renovation has provided a great 5 star incentive hotel option.  The Hilton also recently renovated their property in Marco Island with updated poolside suites and a new restaurant.  Here is a great piece by Incentive Mag on the resurgence of Southwest Florida: Southwest Florida's Beaches Get Their Due

    7. Naples, Florida - "Consistent & Quiet" - Speaking of Southwest Florida, Naples continues to thrive in the incentive travel market.  Despite the continuing growing prices at the Ritz Naples, Naples continues to draw incentive travel groups due to their location outside the Zika risk territory.  Unlike some of their neighborhood destinations in Southwest Florida, Naples has a healthy inventory of hotel rooms especially in the 4 star space.  There are currently over 5500 hotel rooms and 48 hotels to choose from in the area.   Many of these properties are being renovated versus brand new builds.  Fort Myers is the closest airport and has affordable and frequent airlift from most East Coast destinations.  For incentive groups with attendees 50 years and older, Naples is the perfect beach destination.  For companies with a younger workforce, they might find this Florida beach town a little sleepy.  This won't be a destination in which you are getting the bang for your buck but it is one with very low risk and continued success with incentive programs.

    8. Palm Springs, CA - "Boutique Beauty" - Palm Springs is not just a destination for the famous music festival Coachella or Spring Break baseball training, it is also a great option for incentive travel due to the beautiful weather year round.  Not many places average 350 days of sunshine per year!  The construction of brand new builds and the recent renovations of old classics has kept Palm Springs on the map and it is currently one of the front runners for Incentive Trips.  Again in a time where Zika has been a concern for the past two years, this is a destination many have traded for the Caribbean.  Palm Springs has a large portfolio of hotels with over 80 properties and 14,000 sleeping rooms.  A few of the old traditional resorts such as the Westin, La Quinta, Renaissance and JW still have a large presence in the incentive market.  A few of the new players to the market a bringing a different unique and hip feel to the area.   The Parker Palm Springs (144 rooms) is our favorite of the boutique collection for a young incentive crowd.  Beautiful grounds for evening events and plenty to do during the day.  Another boutique, out the box option is the Avalon Hotel, which recently replaced the Viceroy for a young and hip vibe and only 67 hotel rooms.  For the young technology companies looking for something off the beaten bath, those properties could be just that.  For those looking for something a little more traditional but still hip, the new Kimpton and Andaz properties could be a great fit for a mid-size incentive trip (40-60 rooms).  Of course for those looking for a more traditional 5 star option, the Ritz Rancho Mirage never disappoints.  The firepit views from the property can't be beaten by any other hotel in Palm Springs.  Also the daily guided morning hikes are a fun way to explore the area while getting in some exercise.  And don't forget about the daily complimentary candy bar in the lobby or the tasty flavored infused water found throughout property.   Did I forget to mention that golf is pretty amazing in Palm Springs too.

    9. Punta de Mita, Mexico - "Pure Luxury" - For those looking for a luxurious, small, and intimiate Incentive Trip, and have a budget for it then Punta de Mita is the place for your next incentive program.  There are a limited number of hotels in this region but the three players are truly impressive.  The St. Regis Punta Mita Resort (120 Rooms) and Four Seasons Punta Mita (173 Rooms) continue to Wow guests trip after trip and the W Punta de Mita just recently opened it's doors with 119 rooms.  For East Coast companies, this destination is a hike.  However, for West Coast companies looking for world-class service, this is the destination for you.  

    10. Vancouver and/or Whistler, Canada - "Ski & City Adventure" - Vancouver is a great destination for year-round incentive travel.  In the winter, Whistler is less than 90 minutes away and is a ski paradise with dogsledding, snowmobiling, sledding and more.  In the summer, there is plenty of great hiking, kayaking in Vancouver, mountain biking, dolphin tours, and more.  Also don't forget about the Islands off Vancounver for summer time activities.  Plus there is a great portfolio of 5 star hotels right in Vancouver from Four Seasons to multiple Fairmont properties to Rosewood Hotel Georgia, to Shangri-la Hotel, Westin and the boutique option L'Hermitage.  In Whistler you have another Four Seasons, Fairmont, Westin and and Pan Pacific.    And don't forget, for US companies the currency exchange is currently in your favor, you can get alot more for your money than staying in the US!  Incentive Travel Magazine picked Whistler as one of their "9 Exciting Incentive Destinations" for 2017.

For the Caribbean we have a few ole faithful properties that continue to meet and exceed expectations year after year:

  • Paradisus Palma Real, Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
  • Hyatt Zilara, Montego Bay, Jamaica 
  • Grand Velas, Riviera Maya, Mexico
  • Live Aqua, Cancun, Mexico
  • Hyatt Ziva, Los Cabos

And we have a few new players on the scene:

  • Secrets Cap Cana, Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
  • Unico 20 87, Riviera Maya, Mexico

For the companies that have extremely generous budgets, don't be afraid to provide a once in a lifetime opportunity to your attendees and take then on an African safari, or charter a yacht in Greece and Croatia.  


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