Posts Tagged incentive programs

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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How Great Gifting Experiences Elevate Incentives

Written by Anne Zambrano | Marketing Project Lead

One of the things we are so passionate about at M&IW is creating amazing experiences. We are always on the search for partners who bring the very best and help elevate programs and the incentive experience. Hence, when our Director of Incentives, Tracy Norum, CMP, CIS, thought of the idea of showcasing an incentive gifting experience at our annual M&IW summit, our team didn’t hesitate! M&IW Summit is now just over a week away and we are beyond excited that one of our valued gifting experience partners, Cultivate, is joining us and showcasing a fun, unique and custom gifting experience. We wish we could tell you what it is but it is a surprise! (Stay tuned for a post update after the event to find out or follow us at #miwsummit to see it revealed live next Wednesday, August 8th.)

What we can share with you is how adding a gifting experience to your program makes the program meaningful for guests and partnering with the right partner makes all the difference. We chose Cultivate because they shine at making the process easy for planners with a turnkey service and featuring brands that the attendees and guests love. To dig a bit deeper, we asked the President of Cultivate, Tom Romine, three simple questions to help us showcase how great gifting experiences elevate events and incentive programs.

Tell us about your mission and how your gifting service elevates events and incentive programs?

Our core purpose is to work together to appreciate and inspire amazing people. In other words, we want to make sure those attending an event or who earned that fantastic incentive trip truly feel appreciated. One way we believe this can be accomplished is through gifting. Here’s how. With the right amount of choice on-site (of course guests should be able to select their own gift), to brands guests aspire to own (but wouldn’t necessarily purchase for themselves), to an item(s) they will use frequently – these types of gifts will often remind guests of the program they attended or incentive trip they earned, long after the event concludes.

How do you feel that your gifting service adds value when motivating employees and creating amazing experiences?

When guests arrive at our gift experience, they instantly feel transported to a beautiful boutique where the level of service is top-notch and the atmosphere is fun and inviting. When it comes to gift programs, it’s as much about making memories as it is the gifts given. Yes, we have a second to none brand selection, bold and modern displays, but what we do best is create the experience for everyone in attendance.

How do you feel that your gifting experience empowers employees and organizations?

When the gift experience is memorable and guests return home, we’ve learned they’re often asked by their friends and family, “Hey, where did you get those new sunglasses?” It’s in this moment where they can talk about the hard work they do for a great company, the incentive trip they earned and why they earned it, and how proud they feel to belong to an organization that appreciates and inspires them. Appreciation and inspiration are the cornerstones of empowerment after all!

With the experience economy still in full effect and coupled with the fact that today’s consumer wants everything brought right to their fingertips instantly, either through online shopping, meal and grocery delivery services and the like, today’s incentive experiences need to bring all of these dynamics together to create a great experience. It is becoming more challenging to elevate and WOW the incentive attendee. However, that is where creativity, service and presentation come into play. These are factors that will never go out of style when creating the epic experience!

We are excited to bring our attendees and clients this experience at our M&IW Summit. Stay tuned for an update on the experience! We can’t wait to share it with all of you!

Posted in: Company News, Event Marketing & Communications, Event Technology & Mobility Solutions, Incentive Travel Programs, Program Management & Event Design

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The Benefits of Marketing Videos

Written by Jill Pearson | Manager, Digital Marketing & Media

Video marketing techniques are flooding today’s social media outlets, websites and direct marketing campaigns. Almost any type of business or event would benefit from the production of a short video to introduce their products or services. It is no secret that video content increases conversion rates in sales. In fact, consumers are 64% to 85% more likely to purchase a product or service that has video representation according to a study by web analytics gurus at KissMetrics.

For our customers, video promotions provide a clearer understanding of the benefits of a service or event. We have discovered that when a video is used in our marketing communications, the click-through rate (CTR) is four times greater than all other links embedded in the email. Additionally, videos on social sites are liked and shared ten times more which leads to higher read rates and website traffic.

Because it is an ever-increasing and popular medium, we’ve also found it highly effective to use videos to present a destination, resort or other elements of an incentive promotion to our clients. It allows our clients to immerse themselves in the destination and incentive trip experience. The same is true when announcing the details of a trip to potential winners. It creates excitement and can catapult production to the next level. Another technique is to share a “happy face” video from the previous year showing actual winners and how much fun they had during the trip. It serves as a great reminder for the winners and creates a level of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). Likewise, it is a great teaser for those trying to earn the upcoming trip for the first time.

An incentive campaign’s success is dependent on our ability to creatively entice participants to engage, perform, and win. Recently, our Creative Services and Digital Marketing team joined forces with an Account Lead within Global Enterprise Solutions to create a video for a sales incentive that we won over an industry competitor. For this company, incentives aren’t a new concept and there are several repeat winners. To combat the perception that this is a “been there, done that” trip, we proposed a unique, new destination trending within the incentive space. Puglia is a region in Italy’s boot that is mostly unexplored by corporate incentives. So, the messaging challenge of the video was to take an unknown destination and create the fascination of a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Daniel Filar, Account Lead, reinforces the objective by stating, “the goal was to lure the sales team into the lavish Italian lifestyle found in Puglia – accommodations at a 5-diamond resort, fine-dining experiences, touring historic villages and experiencing unique activities. We decided to produce a customized video to capture the region’s most breath-taking vistas and offerings. Without the supporting imagery to bring the experience to life, we would have fallen short on our ability to tell the story and sell the destination.” The client shared with us that he believed this was going to be one of the best incentive trips yet and early indicators showed his sales team was driving hard toward their targets. To see if you agree, view the video above.

Another way organizations are incorporating video is to announce and promote a corporate social responsibility component that is tied into the incentive trip. “Last spring, one of my clients had a program in Cabo San Lucas. During the planning process, he learned the Light in my Life Orphanage in San Jose Los Cabos was severely damaged by Hurricane Odile in 2014 and saw an opportunity to help. To generate awareness for the CSR activity, a touching video was created and shared with the winners prior to the trip. It turned about to be a wonderful and beneficial experience for all,” said Katie Wiesner, Sr. Program Manager, CIS.

While techniques used for promotions are constantly evolving, consumer behavior still suggests that purchases are made and participation is enhanced when personal connection have been established. Videos bring that association to a consumer mind and allows for greater trust and excitement to the featured topic.

With the enhancement of easy-to-use video production technologies, captivating high resolutions photos, short destination clips and creative scripting – destination videos such as the Puglia one featured are less expensive to create than you might think and an excellent promotional tool for your next event.

 

 

 

Posted in: Company News, Event Marketing & Communications, Incentive Travel Programs

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