Dream Incentive

Pull out all the stops. Those are five words every incentive travel planner loves to hear.  But what kind of trip does it really take to motivate top achievers who have already been wined and dined in some of the world’s finest destinations?  Corporate & Incentive Travel Magazine asked a few incentive travel professionals that very question, and their answers will intrigue you. But we have to warn you.  They’re bound to make you a bit envious, as well. 

CLICK HERE to download the full article.

Below is Incentive Travel Solution’s President and Founder Kevin Devanney’s excerpt from this article.

 

The “Wow” Factor

“We’re always looking for at least four ‘wows’ on every program,” says Kevin Devanney, president of Incentive Travel Solutions in Charlotte, NC. “We look for things that are very unique to the destination.” It sounds like he succeeded with an incentive program he recently planned for an insurance company headquartered in the northeast.

The incentive was a six-day trip to Denmark for independent insurance agents and their guests. One highlight was a private event at a castle in Copenhagen. “Kronborg Castle is a big part of the Danish heritage,” Devanney explains. “We rented out Kronborg for the evening, and took the group up to the gates by horse and buggy. The biggest part of the evening was a private performance of Hamlet inside of Kronborg where the play is actually set. The program was in the Great Hall which is a gigantic room with what must be 10×10-foot fireplaces on both ends of the hall. It was only lit by candlelight and the performers were in full costume. It was spectacular.”

Devanney’s Kronborg event also included a private tour of the castle, a cocktail reception, and dinner in the castle’s original wine cellar. Then it was time to move on to the next “wow.” “We were going to Stockholm, and we really needed something unique,” he says. “Over the years, we’ve created a signature lunch that takes advantage of the destination we’re in. We took over a spectacular yacht and cruised out to the archipelago, which is a group of islands. We had music on board and then we got off and had lunch on one of the uninhabited islands. It was a high-end lunch with white table cloths and china in a little country setting.”

The prior year the group had traveled to Banff, Canada where Devanney staged another signature lunch. “We took the group from the Banff Springs Hotel to a helicopter port and flew them over the Canadian Rockies,” he says. “We landed in a valley at this horse ranch. Then they boarded their horses and we took them to the top of the mountain where there was this tented, five-star, four-course lunch waiting for them with spectacular views.”

Another component of Incentive Travel Solution’s Denmark program was an event in a historic building called the Round Tower. “It’s a 14th century tower that the king built to look at the stars,” Devanney says. “We took the group up to the top for champagne cocktails. They did what’s called a sabre d’or. That’s where they take a giant saber and they chop off the top of a champagne bottle. There are only three restaurants in all of Denmark that are qualified to do that. It was followed by dinner in an old monastery in Copenhagen called Sankt Gertrudes Kloster. It’s all made of stone and it’s underground. It’s a fantastic wine-cellar style restaurant.” “We really have to outdo ourselves each year,” Devanney says. “On this trip we also had a cocktail reception in an ice bar in Copenhagen. The chairs, the bar, the glasses, everything is made of ice. They had to put parkas on. It was below zero inside the bar. It’s one of the things they talk about the most, and it was just an hour long cocktail reception.”

Creativity Counts

“It’s not always the budget that plays an important role,” Devanney adds. “For a client a few years back in Paris, we took them on a high speed train down to Giverny where Monet painted and we had a nice picnic lunch down in the rose garden. That’s an example where the budget doesn’t have to be stretched.” Exclusivity is a key ingredient of many dream incentives. Some companies prefer to look for a resort they can buy out for their group, so they won’t have to share the facility with other guests. “More and more companies are going that route,” explains Kenderly Haskins, national director of sales for Auberge Resorts in Mill Valley, CA. “It does give them a sense of exclusivity, and their people feel like ‘Wow, you bought out the place for us?’” Haskins has a client in the financial services industry who is buying out Auberge’s Esperanza resort for a sales incentive program this month. Esperanza is a 56-room ultra-luxurious oceanfront resort located a few miles from Cabo San Lucas on Mexico’s Baja Peninsula. There will be approximately 120 guests for the four-day program. “Literally, whatever they want to do is what they can do,” Haskins says. “A yacht will be available for them daily. They can golf every day. They’ll have a cigar roller available and a big beach barbeque. They’re doing a Hummer tour and fireworks over the sea. “Everything is complimentary for them,” she adds. “Dinners, the drinks, everything goes back to the master account.
It’s going to be top notch.”

Best Restaurants of the World

It must be pleasant indeed to be able to plan gala meals without any annoying financial constraints. For those of you in such plush circumstances, we offer these pricey paragons of the culinary arts. The rest of you can take some solace in knowing that you’ve avoided some perception issues with the folks in procurement.

1. Queue de Cheval Steak House, Montreal
 (queuedecheval.com)
Let’s start on a relatively modest note with this highly regarded eatery, whose average cost of $85 per meal, per person, won’t register too seismically if preceded by a nice, results-oriented meeting or event. The beef served here is all corn-fed and dry-aged for 35 days, producing a hefty 24-oz porterhouse that will serve as good ballast for attendees in a hurricane.

2. Gordon Ramsay, London (gordonramsay.com)
Now let’s leap into a loftier bracket. This exclusive restaurant, open since 1998 in the famous chef’s mother country, has just 13 tables with seating for fewer than 60. Average price per meal, per person, comes to US$183, for specialties such as cornish lamb and pigeon, and pigeon with foie gras. Submit your receipt to the bean counters and you might feel like a pigeon — a homing pigeon, fresh from being kicked out of the office.

3. Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athenéé, Paris
 (alain-ducasse.com)
We’re talking delicious modern French cuisine, with an average meal costing between US$210-$250. The dishes, accompanied by choice of caviar, duck liver sauce or giblets of lamb, come à la carte, leaving you à la broke.

4. Masa (masanyc.com)
In the Time Warner Center in Manhattan’s Columbus Circle, Masa seats just 26 people who, while paying around $300 per person, prix-fixe, enjoy a three-hour experience with exquisite Japanese cuisine. No menu needed here, as the daily options are created by whim of the eponymous chef himself. New York Magazine raves about the white truffle tempora that’s often served in the fall, and the tuna tartare with aji mackeral sashimi tossed in shiso blossoms, otherwise known as “your budget garnished with a red flag.”

5. Aragawa, Tokyo (no website; for detailed review: tomostyle.wordpress.com)
Don’t let the dark, office-building basement environs of this steak house fool you: This is upper-upscale Japanese food. Here is another place where they don’t bother with a menu — because you come for the kobe beef served with capsicum (aka pepper) and mustard. By meal’s end, and at these prices (an average meal here hits the high note at US$370), you’ll truly feel spent.

Official State Birds and Flowers

The next time you run out of ideas for a theme, consider tying in room and/or table décor with the officially designated bird or flower of the state in which your event occurs. In other words, use pride of place as a placemat.

 

State Bird/Flower
 Alabama:  Yellowhammer/Camellia
 Alaska:  Willow Ptarmigan/Forget Me Not
 Arizona:  Cactus Wren/Saguaro Cactus Blossom
 Arkansas:  Mockingbird/Apple Blossom
 California:  California Valley Quail/California Poppy
 Colorado:  Lark Bunting/Rocky Mountain Columbine
 Connecticut:  Robin/Mountain Laurel
 Delaware:  Blue Hen Chicken/Peach Blossom
 Florida:  Mockingbird/Orange Blossom
 Georgia:  Brown Thrasher/Cherokee Rose
 Hawaii:  Nene/Pua Aloalo
 Idaho:  Mountain Bluebird/Syringa-Mock Orange
 Illinois:  Cardinal/Purple Violet
 Indiana:  Cardinal/Peony
 Iowa:  Eastern Goldfinch/Wild Prairie Rose
 Kansas:  Western Meadowlark/Sunflower
 Kentucky:  Cardinal/Goldenrod
 Louisiana:  Eastern Brown Pelican/Magnolia
 Maine:  Chickadee/White Pine Cone and Tassel
 Maryland:  Baltimore Oriole/Black-Eyed Susan
 Massachusetts:  Chickadee/Trailing-Arbutus
 Michigan:  Robin/Apple Blossom
 Minnesota:  Common Loon/Pink and White Lady’s Slipper
 Mississippi:  Mockingbird/Magnolia
 Missouri:  Bluebird/Hawthorn
 Montana:  Western Meadowlark/Bitterroot
 Nebraska:  Western Meadowlark/Goldenrod
 Nevada:  Mountain Bluebird/Sagebrush
 New Hampshire:  Purple Finch/Purple Lilac
 New Jersey:  Eastern Goldfinch/Violet
 New Mexico:  Roadrunner/Yucca Flower
 New York:  Bluebird/Rose
 North Carolina:  Cardinal/American Dogwood
 North Dakota:  Western Meadowlark/Wild Prairie Rose
 Ohio:  Cardinal/Scarlet Carnation
 Oklahoma:  Scissor-tailed Flycatcher/Mistletoe
 Oregon:  Western Meadowlark/Oregon Grape
 Pennsylvania:  Ruffed Grouse/Mountain Laurel
 Rhode Island:  Rhode Island Red/Violet
 South Carolina:  Great Carolina Wren/Yellow Jessamine
 South Dakota:  Ring-Necked Pheasant/Pasque Flower
 Tennessee:  Mockingbird/Iris
 Texas:  Mockingbird/Bluebonnet
 Utah:  Common American Gull/Sego Lily
 Vermont:  Hermit Thrush/Red Clover
 Virginia:  Cardinal/American Dogwood
 Washington:  Willow Goldfinch/Coast Rhododendron
 West Virginia:  Cardinal/Rhododendron
 Wisconsin:  Robin/Wood Violet
 Wyoming:  Western Meadowlark/Indian Paintbrush