Incentive travel breaks new ground


Already, say insiders, incentive travel to new and different destinations looks to be on an upward curve over the next two years, especially out of the US.

Russia, China, Berlin, Melbourne and Dubai are destinations that are now finding favour as planners put together presentations for 2005 and 2006.
A recent survey of 50 Fortune 500 companies carried out by the Business Travel Coalition found that most companies expect to increase their incentive travel budgets next year, due to a better economy, higher profits and fear of rival companies luring away top performers with better packages.
Three words you would do well to remember: exotica, adventure and luxury. All are incentive travel keywords that will endear you to a client forever in search of exciting new options that will make a trip even more memorable for employees. These trips are rewards for work well done and motivations to keep the standard high in the year to come – not just instantly-forgettable junkets.
Forget island holidays, then, think old castles, spas and luxury trains. Culture and exotica are where global curiosity is at the moment, and venues fulfilling these needs are obviously scoring head and shoulders above the rest.
Destinations like Zagreb, for instance, are opening up the black hole that used to be East Europe. Hotels such as the Regent Esplanade Zagreb, dating to 1925 and originally built to provide luxurious accommodation for passengers of the fabled Orient Express, have adapted to the demands of the market, providing up-to-date MICE facilities whilst giving visitors a unique look at history.
Or consider the Majestic Imperator Train de Luxe, rebuilt from original plans of the legendary train of the Emperor Franz Joseph I and Empress Elisabeth of Austria. Immediately taking visitors back to the late 19th century, the train caters to groups of upto 150 or more.
Venues in this part of the world that fit the bill? In Dubia, the recreated old Arabic township at the Madinat Jumeirah, the über-luxurious Bab Al Shams resort in the heart of the desert, or any of the myriad new properties set to open including the Emirates Palace.
Given the delivery lifestyles all of us live today, where everything is brought to us, it’s only natural we’d want to push the limits – and incentive programmes in places like Australia fit the bill. Usually likely to involve Sydney, the Great Barrier Reef, the outback and rainforest areas. A typical programme might include an interface with aboriginal culture, local flora and fauna, beach and sun destinations, private functions such as the exclusive use of the Opera House, Olympics-themed dinner on the very turf where the world’s best competed at the Sydney Games, helicopter transfers to the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland, hot air ballooning adventures in Victoria, jet-boating on Sydney Harbour wine-tasting in South Australia and more.
Travel planners are also suggesting truly unique ideas: if the objective of the trip is to reward employees and make them feel truly special, why not gift them a week at a spa? Across North America, the industry is waking up to the fact that pampering can truly work as a reward. Fairmont, Four Seasons and Marriott properties across that continent are leading the way, it only remains for organisers at Dubai’s out-of-the-box planners to take a leaf out of their book.