2014 Incentive Destinations: Fresh takes on typical experiences

Liz Mikkelsen
Liz Mikkelsen

A unique incentive travel destination

The travel incentive industry is ever-evolving. As travel buyers, our job is to stay on top of the latest trends—what’s creating buzz. Where to go. What to do. The properties people are talking about. Our BFF? Condé Nast Traveler’s Gold List of the “World’s Best Places To Stay.” This is the gold standard in our industry.

In reviewing this year’s Gold List, we found the usual lineup of tried-and-true resorts and city hotels—most of which have excellent operational histories and guaranteed levels of service and luxury. These heavy-hitters will always be go-to incentive travel destination options. But there were also a few surprises on the list, including up-and-coming or previously overlooked hotels and destinations—not what you’d typically consider for meetings and incentives. 

Something else we think about when planning the ultimate event experience—the multi-generational gap among event attendees is constantly widening. Event planners are tasked with finding unique incentive travel destinations and hotels offering a wide variety of experiences with universal appeal. Now more than ever, people are well-traveled, and in some cases, those old reliable destinations no longer offer the same allure. So we are constantly upping our game to create necessary balance—exciting new properties and destinations with a lengthy list of activities and adventures. The perfect place to rev up or wind down.

That takes buying expertise and extensive research. And an enormous amount of innovative thinking. Here are a few ideas to put a fresh spin on incentive experiences, with highlights from this year’s Gold List.

Popular Event Experience Tried-and-True Locale Alternative Recommendation
Bush Camp and Game Drive Incentive South Africa New Zealand
Domestic “Fun and Sun” Winter Incentive Miami, Ft. Lauderdale or Naples, Florida Desert oasis in Santa Fe, New Mexico, or Sedona, Arizona; Domestic mountain locations such as Vail, Colorado, or Lake Tahoe, Nevada
International “Fun and Sun” Incentive Mexico or the Caribbean Rio, Brazil, or Sicily, Italy
International City Destination Incentive Europe Quebec City, Canada; or Mexico City, Mexico
Cruise Caribbean European River Cruise


Other trends on the rise:

  • Foodie Trips—Destinations such as Peru, Scotland and San Sebastian, Spain, all offer culinary tours, Michelin-starred restaurants and palate-pleasing activities.
  • South American-Themed Experiences—Attendees can experience a variety of destinations that are focused around a specific theme or event, from an Olympic or World Cup-centric trip to Brazil, a gastronomic tour of Peru...or a historical experience in the Columbian cities of Cartagena and Bogota.
  • Families Gone Wild—While amusement parks and beach destinations are always a draw, families are increasingly opting for once-in-a-lifetime getaways with their children.

What are some of your favorite travel destinations?