Due to popular demand, I feature many tropical beach destinations, and for good reason. Who wouldn’t be motivated by luxury resorts with blue skies, azure seas, and white sand? Throw in the sound of gently crashing waves and maybe a drink with an umbrella, and you have a winner!
Still, many people choose beach locations for their own vacations and may be looking for something they wouldn’t necessarily plan for themselves, something more adventurous and off the beaten path. I’ll let you in on a secret: I’m one of those people! When it comes to travel, my top choices are always experiential, somewhere that makes me realize just how unique and different the world is, somewhere with a story. That’s why I always share some unexpected incentive options with my clients, or as I always say, “throw in a wild card or two!”
If it works for your budget, you can even offer your guests a choice between a relaxing trip or an adventurous one. This not only allows for a more intimate experience for your winners but is more personalized and appeals to a wide range of personalities.
In Case You Missed It: In the Buyer’s Eye – Future Focus
It’s important to keep in mind that experiential destinations may require more time and a higher budget than a tropical getaway, but they’re more than worth it. Once-in-a-lifetime opportunities are extra motivating for your incentive participants, creating unforgettable and life-changing memories.
South Africa is usually the first thought for an incentive group interested in Africa. It’s one of the continent’s most popular destinations and provides a combination of safaris, winelands, and city life. Cape Town in particular reflects many different cultures with a wide variety of scenery, including a stunning mosaic of land and sea.
While South Africa is undoubtedly incredible, if you’re looking for an authentic safari experience, Kenya is another great consideration. Nairobi, Kenya, is East Africa’s main hub and is an effective gateway for international arrivals. It’s also the starting point for travel and safaris within the region. A number of charter companies offer services to various airstrips located in national parks and on private game reserves.
What makes Kenya so “wild?” It’s where the safari concept began! Prolific game experiences abound with much bigger herds and viewings. The best time to visit is from July to early October so you can witness one of nature’s most spectacular events: the Great Migration. Over a million wildebeest and thousands of zebras traverse the Maasai Mara National Reserve in south-eastern Kenya.
For sheer awe-inspiring travel for your incentive, let us design an ideal possibility in a country that defines a collision of nature and culture. There are many properties for consideration; here are some of my favorite options in Kenya for small, high-end incentives:
- Angama Mara, pictured above left,is a five-star safari lodge. Its 30 tented suites are perched right on the edge of the escarpment overlooking Maasai Marai.
- Sanctuary Olonana, above center,is another five-star lodge in the heart of Maasai Mari. With 14 glass-sided suites, dramatic views await at every turn.
- &Beyond Bateleur Camp, above right, is nestled at the rim of the Great Rift Valley in Maasai Mara. Two intimate camps feature 18 luxury tents in total.
Into the Wild
For something a little closer to home, Sonora Resort is a luxury wilderness resort in the Discovery Islands archipelago off the coast of British Columbia, one of Canada’s most alluring, pristine environments. The resort is a member of the prestigious Relais & Chateaux family offering impeccable hospitality in unique locations. Open seasonally from May through mid-October, the all-inclusive Sonora Resort offers 88 accommodations divided between rooms, suites, and villas.
The adventure begins even before arriving—the island is only accessible by helicopter, seaplane, or boat. After checking in, eco-adventure expeditions await on crystal clear waters and unspoiled land, providing spectacular sightseeing opportunities. It’s almost like magic because, although it is impossible to schedule nature, animals always appear as if on cue: sea lions, bald eagles, bears, whales, dolphins, and more.
While this is an enviable environment for the precious wildlife, the creature comforts also go above and beyond for the fortunate guests, making it a rich reward for high achievers. Island Currents Spa offers all the expected spa treatments and then some, such as multi-sensory water journeys. Swimming pools, hiking trails, tennis courts, a putting green, and even a small movie theatre add to the daily options, allowing optimum opportunities for balancing wild and mild.
How do you think your incentive winners would feel to be offered the opportunity to hike glaciers and kayak with seals in Antarctica? See the beautiful scenery and polar bears in the Arctic? Kayak, snorkel, and swim with wildlife in the Galapagos? These are just a few of the amazing and adventurous options available with expedition cruising, one of the fastest growing sectors in the cruise industry.
The small- to medium-sized vessels, many new in the premium and luxury market, provide the opportunity for more activities and uniquely immersive enrichment due to their smaller size. When you’re not off exploring the natural wonders, soak in the beauty of the exotic landscapes on deck while enjoying the glamorous comforts these ships have to offer.
Who is expedition cruising for? Incentive clients who are looking for a journey with extraordinary landscapes, from expansive jagged mountain peaks to narrow fjords with wildlife speckled in between. These places that you read about are within reach—and in a luxurious fashion.
While there are many expedition cruising companies to choose from—as I said, they’re becoming more and more popular!—these are some of my favorites for planning world-class, customizable cruises:
- Atlas Ocean Voyages, pictured above left, offers intimate, yacht-style cruises. Their small size allows them to reach destinations that traditional cruise ships are too large to reach. One ship is now sailing with another launching in November 2022 plus three more planned by 2024.
- Ponant Expedition Cruises, above center, take you up close and personal to some of the world’s most extreme regions. On all eleven ships, itineraries can be perfectly planned or left flexible enough for whatever surprises come your way.
- Silversea, above right, the first all-inclusive, ultra-luxury global cruise line, is part of the Royal Caribbean Group. Five expedition ships sail to all seven continents and over 900 destinations, including some of the most remote regions of the planet, allowing for intimate, inspiring experiences.
Mary Enke, CIS
Sr. Destination & Experience Design Lead
Meetings & Incentives Worldwide, Inc.