by Alex Palmer | November 06, 2017
Incentive buyers and suppliers from around the world discussed issues of security and safety, as well as ways to provide more creative and authentic experiences to attendees. The lively conversation took place over lunch at the second annual Global Incentive Summit (GIS) in Reykjavik, Iceland. Hosted by Northstar Meetings Group (Incentive's parent company) in partnership with the Society for Incentive Travel Excellence (SITE), the event connected buyers and suppliers of incentive experiences for three days of networking, exploration of Iceland, and discussion about the issues affecting the industry.

That last point was on full display at lunch on the final full day of the gathering, as the dozens of attendees gathered at Restaurant Reykjavik, with each table given one of two topics to discuss over beef tenderloin and potato cake. The first asked how to manage concerns about security and attendee safety that have only become more pressing in light of the string of natural disasters and man-made tragedies of the past several months.

Sarah Gippen, director of sales for Briggs Inc., emphasized the importance of taking the "extra step so participants know what they are doing and can be prepared" at events, such as beginning a program by pointing out the exits or the place to meet in the case of an evacuation.

Cathleen Kelley, director of North America at Monte-Carlo SBM, based in New York City, made the point that it's not just far-flung countries that are raising concerns about terrorism and violence, but also the U.S. She described how international clients "see news of our cities and how much violence we have, and they're afraid to see us, too."

On the second question, which asked, "Are incentive qualifiers demanding experiences that dig deeper into the destination than before?," Chris Lynn, vice president of North American and emerging markets for London & Partners, emphasized the importance of partnerships. "You have to push your suppliers sometimes and say, 'that's not good enough.' If you can impress yourself then you can impress the person next to you -- so when was the last time you tried to impress yourself?" 

Luiz Matta, director of corporate events and destination management services for ECG Events, emphasized the value of corporate social responsibility. "You create a connection by giving back to the destination and working with the community," he said.

The GIS attendees could get first-hand experience of deepening their experience of a destination with the range of activities they took part in at the gathering, organized by the DMC and event sponsor Iceland Congress Incentive & Events. The day before, attendees were able to choose between taking a rugged ATV tour across the striking Icelandic landscape, to visit the local Omnom chocolate factory, or to take a dip in the famed Blue Lagoon. The day of activities wrapped up with a dine around at several choice restaurants throughout Reykjavik. 

Following the lunch discussion on the final day, attendees had several hours to explore downtown Reykjavik, checking out local institutions such as the National Museum of Iceland, or catching a live concert at one of numerous venues hosting acts as part of the massive Iceland Airwaves music festival taking place the same days as GIS. 

Everyone then met back up to head to dinner and evening activities. But as attendees donned their hats and scarves, they saw that their transportation was not a traditional bus, but a fleet of "Super Jeeps" on massive wheels. The cars allowed the travelers to experience some intense off-roading across the southern Icelandic terrain from the comfort of the interior's luxurious seating, all directed by a guide who explained the region, geography, and local customs.

The first stop of the evening was at the Hellisheiði Power Station (pictured), the third-largest geothermal power station in the world. Located in the Hengill volcanic region of southwest Iceland (where at least three eruptions have occurred in the past 11,000 years), the plant taps into this geothermal energy to provide renewable electricity and hot water to homes and industries throughout Iceland. The tour of the plant deepened attendees' understanding of the country's innovative spirit (it recently announced plans for its cars to go fully electric by 2030). 

From there, the string of Super Jeeps headed further south, over hills and crevices, to the fishing village of Stokkeyri, on the country's southern coast. Attendees were treated to a feast of fresh langoustine tails, sautéed in garlic and butter, along with a range of trimmings, at the beloved local restaurant Fjöruborðið (which has been visited by the likes of Bill Gates and Jay-Z). The attendees chatted and shared stories, and representatives of Northstar Meetings Group raffled off gifts including Tumi wallets to those who had made donations to 4Ocean, the organization dedicated to the active removal of trash from the world's oceans, and a CSR partner for GIS.

Following dinner, attendees loaded back into the Super Jeeps and headed back to Reykjavik -- with one important detour. As the group headed north, the guide paused the proceedings and the trucks pulled into a clearing. Everyone hopped out and the guide pointed to the sky where a wisp of green danced -- the Northern Lights. Though faint due to the full moon, the Aurora Borealis was unmistakable, and a number of incentive buyers and suppliers were able to check a bucket-list experience off their lists.