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.
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.”
“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.”