Posts Tagged Destinations

International Incentives—When to Get a Little Bit Exotic

Written by: Mary Enke | Creative Lead & Senior Buyer, Incentive Services

The best incentive programs are built around the personas of your individual travelers. Is your team repeat winners, well-versed in the intricacies of international travel? Are they hustling Millennials searching for a little bit of adventure? For both of these groups your typical European vacation is either within reach, or a bit ‘basic, motivation-lacking, and routine.’ Perhaps, you can get a little bit exotic by hosting your incentive program just off the beaten path—a short distant from the more standard European vacation destinations of England, France and Italy.

The following locations offer unique options as well as an idyllic, picturesque location that offers adventurous activities for the active traveler as well as a healthy serving of sand and surf for those who prefer the peace and solitude of an island vacation.

Sardinia, Italy

Located in the Mediterranean Sea between the shores of Spain, France, and Italy

Situated in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea is beautiful Sardinia. This is not a “cookie-cutter” tropical island. With near-alpine oak, dazzling white sand beaches and crescent-shaped bays backed by limestone cliffs, Sardinia is an exotic, eccentric island adventure… one of Europe’s last!

While visiting, guests have a multitude of activities to experience including water sports galore, sailing, snorkeling, and sea safaris. Or, take on coastline horseback riding…maybe jaunt to the different villages for shopping or secluded beaches. Definitely a destination with a lot to offer to a seasoned traveler or a first visit to Europe.

High Season               July – August                                             Crowds, but great days for the beach

Shoulder Season      April, June, September, October           Lower room rates, weather is changeable

Low Season               November – March                                  A bit colder and wetter, many sights closed

Maldives, Asia

Located in the Indian Ocean off the costs near Sri Lanka

This is truly the ultimate escape for an exotic getaway.  A very non-traditional and different destination. Sure, many destinations boast white sandy beaches, crystal clear turquoise waters, but how many can say that every resort is on its own island – all 105 of them? No island has two resorts. The only way to get around is by boat or plane.

Some would call this a “drop out” destination – in the best way. Drop out of reality and celebrate the holiday of a lifetime. A pure beach destination. No roads. No off-site venues.  No cultural attractions.  Activities vary from resort to resort. This is heaven on earth … the water, the food, the spas, the resorts … all add up to an experience one will never forget.

High Season              December – February                          Best weather, little rain, low humidity          

Shoulder Season      March – April                                          Good weather, end of April hottest

Low Season               May – November                                   Storms more likely, but only for short periods

Hvar, Croatia

Located in the Adriatic Sea off the costs off the southern coast of Croatia just North of Greece

One of the most beautiful Croatian islands is Hvar. This intoxicating heaven, clouded by the fragrances of lavender, rosemary, and heather and surrounded by the azure sea, is a true year-round destination and inexhaustible treasure chest of sights, experiences and adventure.

Croatia is growing in popularity with individuals and incentives. Be part of the “in crowd”. The entire Dalmatian Coast is buzzing. Split European programs are the ultimate experience and there are so many destinations to consider along this enchanting coast.

High Season              July – August                                          Best weather, followed by Split & Dubrovnik

Shoulder Season     May – June & September                      Great time to visit, Adriatic is warm

Low Season               October – April                                       Storms & rain a bit more likely, lower rates

Madeira, Portugal

Located in the Atlantic Ocean off the coasts of North Easter Africa nearest to Morocco.

Right in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean is Madeira Island. Geologically dramatic and bursting with exotic color and warmed year-round by the Atlantic sun, Portugal’s most enchanting island is a place that keeps all its subtropical holiday promises. This is definitely the pearl of the Atlantic.

Embark upon the ultimate diving, big game fishing, jeep safaris, or get up close and personal with sea life in the open waters – not to mention the food and wine scene. This tiny volcanic island has so much to offer … and more!

High Season             December & July- August                      Higher prices

Shoulder Season     April – June                                                Weather is best, main tourist season

Low Season              January – March                                       Most rain

Seychelles

Located in the Indian Ocean off the coasts of South West Africa between Madagascar and the Maldives.

Scattered across the Indian Ocean, the Seychelles is made up of 115 idyllic islands. Spellbinding beaches are the main attraction. Exquisite strips of white sand lapped by turquoise water and backed by lush hills.

Sailing, diving, fishing and relaxing are the main activities for visitors. This is, without a doubt, the perfect spot to go to invoke in your inalienable right to engage in the lovely art of doing nothing at all… or do as much as you like. Mother Nature was generous with the Seychelles, a fabled paradise.

High Season              December, March, July, August           Spikes in European holidays, can be humid

Shoulder Season      April – May/October – November        Great weather for swimming & excursions

Low Season               January – May                                           Lower accommodation pricing, comfortable

Langkawi, Malaysia

Located in the Andaman Sea off the coast of northwestern Malaysia near Singapore.

Discover a faraway island and a true tropical paradise in Langkawi. Alluring and idyllic in its natural beauty. Majestic and spectacular in its culture. Langkawi is synonymous with blond beaches, sandy beaches, and jungle-cloaked valleys. Truly an exotic getaway.

Nature is literally at your doorstep. The recreation options are unbelievable from boat trips to bat caves, bike outings to waterfalls, plunging from a cliff to a pool below. Through all of these adventures, the monkeys are watching and enjoying the show.

High Season               January – March                                     High tourist season, lots of sun and activities

Shoulder Season      April – August                                          Fewer tourists, great weather

Low Season                September – October                            Rainy – but only 2 hours per day

The Choice is Yours

While these destinations may require an extra leg to get to from all US gateway cities, we feel that the experience they provide is well worth the extra travel time. With creative and unique planning and consultation with professionals who know how to incentivize these destinations, one of these may be the most ideal fit for your next program.

“A journey is not about the places you visit, but the stories you bring home to share.”

 

Posted in: Company News

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Colombia, The Tipping Point of Change

Colombia Old City Cartagena

Written by: Nicole Raudabaugh, CMP | Sr. Account Lead, Incentive Services

I had the opportunity to join Hyatt Hotels and a group of fellow MICE travel professionals on a tour to Bogota and Cartagena, Colombia. I returned excited to see that a country which has had so much negative publicity over the past several decades is, in my opinion, at the tipping point of change. There is great optimism among the native Colombians that Colombia has a bright future ahead of them. Tourism is a key component of that and everyone I met was anxious to make this growing industry viable. It was evident throughout my trip that the Colombian people have natural hospitality about their culture and the authentic nature of these cities makes the country a wonderful new destination for all types of travelers.

The first two nights I had the pleasure of staying at the Grand Hyatt Bogota; which opened in November of 2018. This stunning new build hotel is located only 15 minutes from the airport in a newly developed area of Bogota. Beyond the sleek and thoughtful design, you’ll also find immense and versatile function space coupled with spot-on customer service. The hotel’s location is important because, as I learned, Bogota is a very spread out city with a still maturing infrastructure, so being close to where you are coming and going from is important. The hotel also offers a top floor (and top-flight) restaurant, Ushin, with views of the mountains that ring this capital city. It also has a perfectly appointed fitness center, indoor swimming pool with hydrotherapy circuit and a quiet, dark and peaceful getaway in their spa.

While in Bogota I participated in a Weaving Peace City Tour where I visited two local shops run by indigenous tribe members. For decades the rural, indigenous tribes of Colombia became one of the biggest victims of the country’s notorious drug trade. Their land was the farm that grew an illegal crop and their communities were the unwilling processors. Fast forward and many of those communities have taken a stand and moved from a cash crop to a sustainable crop often in the form of cacao and coffee beans. Through small business funding and grants, these new crops have turned into a new business model including small storefronts in the urban center of Bogota. Wuasikamas Coffee and Distrito Chocolate are two examples of these tribes transforming their future and great stops to purchase gifts to take home.

I also had the opportunity to visit the incredible Catedral de Sal (salt cathedral) in Zipaquira. Carved out of an immense, working salt mine this man-made wonder is available for private corporate events and is very popular with locals for Sunday mass. The venue is located 1.5 hours outside of Bogota and day trip can be combined with lunch or dinner and local market shopping in the small towns along the way.

From Bogota it was an easy one-hour flight to our next destination in Cartagena, a city steeped in history along Colombia’s Caribbean coastline. We arrived just as the sun was setting adding even more magic to this unique location. Founded in 1553, the city hosts the largest walled city built by the Spanish in the Caribbean. But it also has a “modern” peninsula directly beyond the city walls that features a mile of glass and steel skyscrapers. My first impression was that the city was a great mix between a San Juan “esque” colonial architecture and a Miami Beach “ish” cosmopolitan style.

The Hyatt Regency Cartagena was our host hotel for the next three nights. This beautiful hotel opened its doors in December of 2016 and starts on the 14th floor of the building. Every room has floor to ceiling windows facing the bay or the ocean, including the restaurants and fitness center! There are several infinity pools with views to the sea including a family and adults-only pool. The pool decks transform into great group function spaces at night and the hotel has easily accessible indoor ballroom space and a full-service spa. Groups looking for lots of function space can check out the Cartagena Convention Center located downtown with 215,000 sq. ft of flexible space.

On our first full day in Cartagena we took a city tour and visited the Castillo San Felipe de Barajas. This fortress built by the Spanish includes a foundation built of the coral rocks that surround the city and bricks manufactured in Spain and were used for ballast on the ocean-faring ships. The ships then left the bricks behind in Cartagena and headed home with their cargo holds full of gold from the Americas. We also walked through the main corridors of the old city. Around every corner was a new Instagram-worthy picture featuring brightly colored buildings, huge wooden doors, wrought iron door knockers and beautiful bougainvillea overflowing from the balconies. Cartagena combines quaint plazas and church steeples with high-end and local shops along cobblestone streets, offering visitors a perfect combination of old and new that meld together in harmony.

The beaches right outside the high-rise hotels and condos on the modern peninsula are carved from coral rock and therefore aren’t the white sand and aquamarine waters one might expect in the Caribbean. To find that, many travelers charter a boat for the day to the Rosario Islands.  This archipelago, located approximately 1 hour off the coast, features a variety of boutique hotels and day clubs on individual islands with beautiful beaches. We visited Isla Grande and the day club at Gente del Mar.  We were treated to a freshly caught lobster lunch and comfortable day beds under the palm trees.  It was a memorable way to spend the afternoon.

Watching the sunset is an unofficial sport in Cartagena. Our group was able to capture an especially beautiful one during a sunset bay cruise on the Sibarita Del Mar cruiser. While talking with the captain and owner of this company, he shared that six new bay cruise companies have opened in the past 2 months in Cartagena. This is a prime example of how the tourism market in Colombia in general, but specifically in Cartagena, is growing.

An often-asked question is about safety. I can personally say that I felt very safe during my travels. However, as with any destination, I encourage everyone to use common sense and caution when traveling and be aware of your surroundings. English is spoken readily in the hotels, but if you are not a fluent Spanish speaker yourself, I would recommend being accompanied by a Spanish speaking guide or partner when heading out to see the sights in Bogota as all transportation, communication, and signage are in Spanish. In Cartagena, you’ll find more multi-lingual residents because the city has developed as a melting pot of tourism and international sea trade over the years.

Currently, Bogota is a relatively inexpensive city. Cartagena, on the other hand, is more well known as a vacation destination on the international scene and more expensive.

I realized I’ve only scratched the surface of all this country has to offer. Because of its diverse topography with mountain ranges slicing through the country, each of the regions of Colombia has developed their own micro-culture with foods and attractions that are special to them. The Colombian Tourism Bureau is currently working to meld and market itself as one unified, yet diverse destination, for all types of travelers.

I look forward to seeing what progress the future will bring to Colombia and to the opportunity to share all its exciting possibilities with M&IW’s incentive, meeting and convention clients in the future!  If you are interested in learning more about these or other amazing destinations, please email us at marketing@meetings-incentives.com.

Posted in: Conferences & Tradeshows, Event Marketing & Communications, Group Air Travel Management, Incentive Travel Programs, Sourcing, Negotiating & Contracting

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M&IW Destination Spotlight – Puglia, Italy

Written by Mary Enke | Creative Lead & Senior Buyer, Incentive Services

The M&IW Global Incentive Services Team recently completed an extremely well-received and successful sales incentive program for a large pharmaceutical company in Puglia, Italy. Our team was so impressed with this unique and emerging destination that we wanted to highlight it for our community.

About Puglia
Relatively untouched by tourism, the beautiful region of Puglia is located in southeastern Italy. This area, the “heel” of the peninsula, is known for its wealth of beaches, olive gardens, orchids, blue sea, friendly locals and long sunny days with an average of 300 sunny days per year.

Some notables about the area include:

  • The area combines culture, leisure, architecture and resort beaches
  • Situated between the Ionian and Adriatic Seas
  • Largely unexplored landscape of unique villages and undiscovered culture
  • Access via two airports: Bari and Brindisi with under an hour transfer via coach

Best Time to Visit: 
The best time to visit is between May and September when the average highs range from 71 – 78 degrees. The area experiences relatively low precipitation all year long with only 2-3 inches per month.

M&IW Recommended Property: 
The Borgo Egnazia which opened in May 2012 is modeled after a traditional Apulian village with its striking architecture and unique, contemporary style. Its central piazza, the Borgo, is the heart of the property. Onsite activities include golf, bicycles, horseback riding, tennis, yoga, spa, beach and water sports.

M&IW Recommended Off-site Activities: 

The area boosts a unique opportunity to experience the Italian way of life and culture. Some of our favorite activities to do just that include:

  • Castellana Grottos Cave Tour
  • Cooking classes with world renowned Italian Chefs
  • San Domenico Golf Club
  • Locorotondo with Olive Oil Tasting
  • Ostuni White City Adventure
  • Ancient Egnazia Ruins Excursion
  • Ancient Matera Adventure – “City of Stones”
  • Castel Del Monte Castle | Winery Lunch
  • Explore Roman Castles and Cathedrals

Looking to take it up a notch? Consider adding another destination to the program for an added experience! Options for Dual Destination Programs include the Amalfi Coast, Rome, Tuscany, and France. Our Global Incentive Services team is happy to assist you with your next destination search or answer any questions you may have about a location. To connect with one of our incentive team experts, please email us at marketing@meetings-incentives.com. And, be sure to stay tuned for more Destination Spotlights!

Posted in: Company News, Group Air Travel Management, Incentive Travel Programs, Program Management & Event Design

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Why Certify? A Closer Look at the Value of the CIS

Blog_CIS_Certification_Team

Written by Anne Zambrano | Manager, Communications & Creative Services

As members of M&IW’s Global Procurement team and Incentive Buyers descend upon Las Vegas (aka Sin City) for #IMEX16, we thought we would take a closer look at the Certified Incentive Specialist (CIS) and the value this designation brings our team and our clients. In my discovery, I had the privilege to interview select members of our Global Incentive & Event Services team, specifically Tracy Norum, CMP, CIS, Director; Beth Reetz, CIS, Senior Incentive Buyer; and Senior Program Managers, Cara Turkowski, CIS and Katie Wiesner, CIS.

Let’s hear what they had to say….

A More Knowledgeable and Connected Team

By an overwhelming majority, one of the first benefits served up by each team member was that the CIS designation brought with it a new and valuable network of fellow incentive travel professionals. Cara put it best when she stated, “The class for the certification was a really great way to connect with others in the industry. It is especially helpful when planning international programs, as there are many destination management companies from around the world involved. It reassures me when partnering with them that they take incentive programs as serious as we do.”

The certification process brought incentive professionals with varied experience levels and skill sets together. The group cited that they learned a great deal simply by sharing best practices with each other during the course. Additionally, the more seasoned professionals, such as our M&IW team members, were called upon to share their insights and experiences with the group. This allowed for different vantage points from all around the world.

Katie pointed out that on a day-to-day basis the resources made available to CIS designees are extremely beneficial. The reference materials and newsletters keep the team current on destinations, new hot properties, popular CSR activities and industry insights.

A Confident Client

Clients have more confidence that our team is dedicated to incentives. Holding the designation helps M&IW stand out in the global marketplace. Prospective and current clients have noticed the CIS designation at the end of their names and it has sparked conversations about the credentials and dedication to staying educated in the field and building strong worldwide relationships. Tracy explains, “Obtaining the certification shows our commitment to staying on top of the industry. It holds the industry to a set of professional standards and shows that we are pursuing relevant education and looking to the future needs of our incentive clients.”

Beth shared that it has been very helpful having the designation when sourcing incentive programs. Suppliers in the industry recognize and respect the credentials and treat you as a knowledgeable buyer. This allows the buying and negotiation process to be more effective for our clients’ programs and giving them more confidence in the sourcing and contracting process. All in all, the amount of detail and planning that goes into an incentive program takes an experienced and knowledgeable buyer and having the CIS allows the team to perform at a higher level for our clients.

A Satisfied Employee

Investing in employees continuing education goes far deeper than the benefits it brings; it creates a culture of satisfied and fulfilled employees. M&IW has always valued and promoted industry certifications for their employees illustrated by the 65% of planners and account management at M&IW who hold either a CIS, CMP, CMM, HMCC, etc. This focus helps M&IW create promotable associates leading to a more satisfied and productive team. Cara spoke from her first-hand experience when she stated, “It has really opened a lot of doors for me and allowed me to manage more elite incentive programs. The whole experience has changed the way I approach incentive program design and execution.”

“The CIS designation is important for developing incentive professionals as it demonstrates proficiency in the fundamentals of motivational programs. It is helping to raise the quality of professionals in the incentive industry. At M&IW, we believe it shows to our clients and our associates that M&IW truly cares and invests in the professional development and advancement of our team.” Tracy Norum, CMP, CIS.

A Final Thought

Obtaining designations such as the CIS take time and investment, however, the return is multi-faceted. Invest in your employees’ education and they will invest more in your clients and be leaders among their peers when sharing best practices and resources.

Posted in: Event Marketing & Communications, Incentive Travel Programs, Program Management & Event Design, Sourcing, Negotiating & Contracting

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