by Barry Brown | October 29, 2014
Setting a theme for incentive trips and corporate meetings can turn a run-of-the-mill incentive or meeting into a vibrant, memorable experience that employees will be talking about for years to come. Planners can further guarantee success by choosing a destination  with a rich history that creates fodder for authentic themes, ensuring the event will feel inspired rather than hokey. 

Recently, I got to see that firsthand when Destination Concepts Inc. (DCI) and the Hotel del Coronado got together for a corporate incentive earlier this year. When a long-term client approachedDCI about an annual incentive trip, they told DCI that their goal was to create a one-of-a-kind, five-day, dream trip to reward the company's employees somewhere on the West Coast. To achieve this goal, the client selected the Hotel del Coronado, an hisotric Victorian property located on Coronado Island near San Diego.

The 126-year-old property possesses Queen Anne-style architecture, and over time, it has hosted everyone from celebritieis to dignitaries. Leveraging the Hotel del Coronado's rich history of movie-making magic and its illustrious former guests, the team at DCI worked closely with The Del to incorporate themes of old Hollywood glamour and the resort's coastal California setting into every aspect of the set décor, music, food, and drink. 

"The entire experience at the property was designed to showcase the history of The Del and what makes the property unique, so the guests felt an extra special connection to their surroundings," said Nicole Campos, account director for DCI. "A tight team assembled and started planning 10 months ahead of the event, with monthly face-to-face meetings with the team at The Del, allowing the creative juices to flow."

The trip kicked off with a "Some Like it Hot" beach party to welcome the more than 650 corporate guests to the resort, paying homage to the hit movie, which was filmed at The Del in 1985. "Marilyn Monroe" mingled with the crowd in the colorful beach lounge, and a finger-snapping, Rat Pack tribute band took the stage, creating a true retro Hollywood bash at sunset. For dinner, guests were treated to a California-style clambake, compliments of The Del's executive chef John Shelton.

"I loved how this idea evolved and grew into such a journey," said chef Shelton. "We had so much fun with this theme." 

For the night of the awards ceremony, the team at DCI and The Del created a night to remember. The evening commenced with a champagne reception on the sprawling Windsor Lawn, after which guests were escorted to the grand ballroom with its ocean views. Company employees were honored for their superlative work during a six-course dinner, followed by drinks and dancing in the old-fashioned Edison Bar, named in honor of the famous inventor and former hotel guest.  

For a grand finale on the last night of the trip, DCI and the team at The Del planned an epic "Journey to Oz," nodding to the legendary story and its writer, L. Frank Baum, a frequent guest of the hotel who enjoyed many winters at the seaside retreat in the early 1900s. The party began in the central courtyard, where a gourmet picnic with wooden picnic tables and blue grass music perfectly captured Kansas country chic. 

"The Wizard of Oz" characters frolicked about the scene until it was time for guests to follow the yellow brick road into Emerald City in the Crown Room. There,  guests were greeted with a ruby-shoed chandelier over the central bar, a giant OZ-decaled dance floor, and shimmering green-lit band.  

"The experience exceeded everyone's expectations," noted Campos from DCI. "We're already thinking about returning in 2016 as there are so many more themes and settings to explore at The Del." 

The Old Hollywood theme of this incentive program proved to be a wonderful way for guests to feel celebrated. In planning, the theme and history also provided perpetual inspiration for the event planners and on-site culinary team whose creativity helped create the ultimate experience. By selecting a historic property, an authentic and one-of-a-kind event was created that truly rose above the rest.  

Barry Brown is the director of sales and marketing at the historic Hotel del Coronado, located on 28 oceanfront acres on Coronado Island. Built in 1888 and designated a National Historic Landmark in 1977, Hotel del Coronado is an American treasure with more than 126 years of stories to tell.