Corporate Meetings and
Companies demand a lot from their incentive travel and meeting destinations, including a return on investment. Experts offer tips for rewarding employees while maximizing the value of incentive programs and off-site meetings.
Written by Susan Burnell
Getting the Best Value
Incentive travel can be a powerful tool for motivating a sales staff and boosting employee morale. “One sure way to build employee loyalty is to expose your team to a place they might not consider touring on their own,” says Michael D. Gehrisch, president and chief executive officer, Destination Marketing Association International (DMAI).
A smart planning strategy includes enlisting the free assistance of a destination marketing organization (DMO), also known as a convention and visitors bureau (CVB). “As local experts, DMOs can recommend facilities and experiences that match a group’s personality and budget,” says Gehrisch. “They can help companies get better value out of their meeting or incentive program investment.”
“The Palm Beach County Convention and Visitors Bureau recently helped us set up a golf and deep sea fishing outing in South Florida for a group of 45 businesspeople,” says Daryl Goodwin, president of Atlanta-based Goodwin Incentive Consultants. “They made all the arrangements through their consortium of providers, which easily saved us 20%.”
Caution about the economy need not curtail a company’s incentive plans. “Incentive programs can be structured to take advantage of an upswing, and they can work to get people to buy more in a down market,” says Goodwin. “When programs are keyed to incremental increases to bottom-line revenue, they will always be self-funded.”
“Incentives are one of the most easily proved value propositions,” adds Tom Domine, editor in chief, Meeting Professionals International (MPI). “They can also be used to reinforce a company’s brand.”
Watching the Trends
MPI, a global organization for meetings and events professionals, monitors trends for its industry. “Companies are now designing incentives that match more closely to the corporate culture. They may prefer extreme experiences like helicopter rides or zip-line tours, but if that’s not a motivator for their teams, they opt for luxury experiences like resorts and spas. We are also seeing more organizations with programs that reward top performers and include opportunities for them to give back by working on Habitat for Humanity, building projects, planting trees or repairing bikes for inner-city kids. Those opportunities are a part of the larger meetings picture, too.”
There’s also heightened interest in exotic locations among companies whose culture aligns with unique, trendsetting experiences, Domine notes. To help meetings and events professionals learn more about one such destination, MPI will hold its firstever Gulf Meetings and Events Conference in Dubai in April.
Why Dubai? “It’s a midway point between Europe and growing markets in China and India,” says Domine. “It’s growing as a hub for business and tourism. Its leaders realize the region’s oil income cannot last indefinitely, and they have invested in infrastructure to make it a world-class destination.”
Dubai: Thriving Global Hub Welcomes Business and Incentive Travelers
An exotic destination with a cosmopolitan lifestyle, Dubai is drawing business and leisure travelers from around the globe. The emirate’s entrepreneurial spirit has driven infrastructure development on a grand scale over the last two decades. Tourism revenue accounts for 30% of the emirate’s economy, while crude-oil exports have shrunk to only 3%.
The new Dubai is taking shape with the vision and leadership of Vice President, Prime Minister of UAE and Ruler of Dubai His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. With the goal of creating a lasting, healthy economy for its 1.2 million residents, “the Merchant’s City” is welcoming international visitors with sights and experiences found nowhere else in the world.
Dubai is a convenient meeting point, with direct flights from most European capitals and other major cities including New York, Houston, Atlanta and Toronto. “The deluxe air carriers serving Dubai, including the award-winning Emirates, offer entertainment, gourmet dining and added luxuries for the flight,” says Alba Hotchkiss, director North America, Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing.
“Dubai is a great business hub with infrastructure that makes it easy to service the region,” says Bill Schrom, chief executive officer of reservoir services company Geotrace, with major regional headquarters in Houston, London and Cairo. “Beyond business, the people are friendly, the beaches are beautiful, golf facilities are excellent, there are great historic sites, and the surrounding desert offers tranquility away from the city.”
Dubai offers travel organizers a safe and secure destination that is new and different, combining variety and excitement with professional destination management services and one-of-a-kind luxury hotels. The Dubai Convention Bureau provides a full range of services, from venue research and bid assistance to on-site event services and post-event feedback.
Luxury Abounds in Orlando
Upscale accommodations are an Orlando trademark, and work is already under way for an additional 5,800 luxury brandname hotel rooms. Among the newest due on the scene are:
Westin Imagine Orlando — Located directly across from the Orange County Convention Center opening in spring 2008, this 12-story,
315-room hotel with 7,200 square feet of meeting space will anchor the Village of Imagine, a 30-acre urban village complete with dining and entertainment venues and picturesque walking paths.
Hilton Hotel & Waldorf=Astoria — Hilton has broken ground on a 480-acre complex including a 498-room Waldorf=Astoria, the first outside New York City, and a 1,000-room Hilton Hotel. Set to open in late 2009, the complex will be Hilton’s largest mainland U.S. resort.
InterContinental Resort at Palazzo del Lago — Approximately four miles from the convention center, the 42-acre luxury Palazzo del Lago waterfront resort will feature a 1,260-room InterContinental Hotel. When it opens in late 2009, it is expected to be the largest InterContinental in the world.
Four Seasons Orlando — The luxury hotel brand has announced plans to anchor a new 900-acre resort area at Walt Disney World Resort in 2010 that will include golf, dining and shopping.
The Orlando/Orange County Convention and Visitors Bureau offers customized services for meeting and incentive groups, aimed at increasing attendance and creating memorable experiences. In addition to providing promotional materials, film footage and destination guidebooks, the CVB can also design a customized Web site for visiting groups. Its “Unexpected Orlando” guide highlights cultural, ethnic, historical and natural outdoor activities to complement incentive program itineraries. Groups can also obtain from the bureau a “Preferred Visitor Magicard” for discounts on area attractions, restaurants and shops.