The Top Emerging Incentive Destinations of 2013

By Deanna Ting
December 12, 2013

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An incentive travel program, by its very nature, is meant to motivate. For many groups, there’s no greater motivator than the opportunity to travel to places that offer truly unique, memorable experiences. While compiling this year’s list, many of the incentive planners we spoke to noted a growing desire among groups for new and uncharted travel opportunities beyond the tried and true — and often, across oceans. 

“We’ve seen international destinations grow in popularity,” says Tony Wagner, vice president, CWT Meetings & Events, Americas. “When you really want to motivate your team or your key participants — as long as the budget can handle it — it’s much more motivating to have an international destination.”

Jim Ruszala, senior director of marketing for Maritz Travel Company, agrees: “There’s a thirst for incentive travel participants to experience new and different destinations. It’s a hunger for them to have an opportunity to work hard and get rewarded for that work ethic, and to have that experience.”

Long-haul destinations are not a demotivating factor, either, says Ruszala. “If you’re looking at meeting more aggressive business goals and objectives, a longer-haul destination might be what the doctor ordered,” he adds. 

The meaningful impact of these destinations, says Aoife Delaney, director of global sales for Dublin-based Ovation Global DMC, depends on the “unique and authentic experiences” that people can have in a particular destination. Here’s where she and several influential incentive travel executives see groups heading to in search of one-of-a-kind adventures.

Asia Continues to Amaze
As more hotel companies grow their portfolios in Asia (Starwood is opening 20 hotels in China alone in 2013) and as more companies expand to the region, it only makes sense that Asia be on the minds of many incentive travelers. In the 2013 Incentive Industry Roundtable, Lynn Randall, managing director of Randall Insights LLC and education director for the Incentive Research Foundation, noted that “Bali, Vietnam, and Cambodia” were some of the “top emerging incentive destinations,” with China ranking as “No. 1.” Delaney says she had many clients travel to the region, especially to China and to Korea, this past year. “It stems back to people wanting authentic experiences that are in culture, history, technology, and food.” 

Many planners also noted growing interest in destinations such as Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, and Malaysia for the same reasons. “It’s that special combination of history and culture that you can have in a place like Vietnam or Thailand that really makes an incentive travel program so memorable,” says Wagner.

“Thailand blends together incredible natural settings with a strong culture that inspires many group activities,” adds Ana Henriques, general manager of Phulay Bay, A Ritz-Carlton Reserve luxury resort in Thailand. She says that activities like group cooking classes, corporate social responsibility (CSR) projects, and kayaking among mangroves are big draws for incentive groups.

In Malaysia, being able to visit a Malay family in a traditional Malay kampong (village) is an especially memorable moment for travelers. “This was such a wonderful way to introduce people to a culture, a religion, and a country that they might not know very well, or might even misunderstand,” Andrew T. Stull, former conference officer for the Cognitive Science Society, said during a recent trip to Langkawi, Malaysia. “To feel the love and respect that that family had for their neighbors and their community was just amazing.” 

Gavin Fletcher, general manager of The Gardens Hotels & Residences - St Giles Luxury Hotel in Kuala Lumpur adds that “Malaysia has a lot to offer, and is a potpourri of multiple cultures and diversity. From kampong home-stays and heritage site visits to diving and mountain climbing, there’s something for everyone.”

Spotlight on South America
Another region that has gained increasing interest is South America, home to countries such as Brazil, which is poised to take the spotlight during next year’s World Cup. “A destination to watch is Brazil,” says Susan Adams, director of special initiatives for Dittman Incentive Marketing. “While they’ve had some security concerns, there’s an intense effort underway to develop the safety and infrastructure needed to host the Olympics and the World Cup.” 

Colombia, a country that has also battled concerns regarding its safety and infrastructure in the past, is also surprising many seasoned travelers with its variety of destinations and attractions, as well as rich cultural heritage. “We see interest in that market in Colombia,” says CWT’s Wagner. “The situation there has been stable for many years, and it’s one of those places, especially when combined with Peru, where groups can do so much. If you can get people to think about it, you can get great value and great experiences in Colombia.” Wagner also noted increasing interest in Panama.

Adams adds, “We’re increasingly interested in South and Central America for incentive programs.” She notes, “Panama is evolving with the recent arrival of several renowned hotel brands, strong investment in infrastructure, and accessibility by air that is constantly improving.” She also says that Argentina’s “unique culture and beautiful destinations,” and its ability to be paired with an off-the-beaten-path location like Uruguay, give it “strong incentive appeal.”

The Beguiling Gulf/Middle East
Both Delaney and Ruszala noted that they saw more groups expressing interest in traveling to the Gulf region and the Middle East. Notes Wagner, “Multi-city incentive travel programs to that part of the world have been having a lot more interest from customers.” “Dubai is definitely one of the top emerging incentive destinations,” says Ruszala. “Obviously, a big part of it has to do with the investments they’ve made there — those magnificent architectural buildings — and trying to bring every bit of the continent to their destination. You have indoor skiing and even F-1 racing there. It’s incredible.”

Delaney also notes that beneath the glittering surface, places like Dubai also “have so much more to offer. Just sitting and eating traditional dates and sharing a pot of tea, or camping out in the desert — those are the kinds of things that are really exciting for our clients. 

With a destination like Dubai or Abu Dhabi, or Jordan, Oman, and Qatar, you can do that and a lot more. It’s just so exciting.”  This page is protected by Copyright laws. Do Not Copy


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