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by Andrea Doyle and Alex Palmer | March 30, 2016
The Hilton Curaçao recently unveiled extensive renovations, upgrading its Celeste Beach Bar (pictured)
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The Caribbean continues to reign as a top incentive destination. According to the most recent Incentive Research Foundation "Pulse Survey," the region tied with the U.S. as the No. 1 region to bring incentive groups to, with 50 percent of respondents citing it as their chosen destination. It remains slightly more popular for corporate planners -- 20 percent of whom cited it as a go-to destination, compared to the 18 percent of third-party planners who picked it. Add to that, in the latest Incentive "Travel IQ" survey it was by far the most-cited international destination, selected by 42.4 percent of respondents (the next closest was Mexico, with 27.5 percent, followed by Western Europe with 20.6 percent).

Between its rich culture, relaxing beaches, and often outstanding value and logistical convenience, it's easy to see why this region continues to call to incentive planners. And there are now more reasons than ever for incentive groups to visit these lush islands.

Take, for example, St. Lucia. The 240-square-mile island will be adding 700 additional rooms in 2016, as well as additional investment throughout the island and in a new marketing campaign. Among the 2016 offerings is the newly reopened 110-room Papillon Hotel, from Rex Resorts, providing an all-inclusive offering adjacent to Rex Resorts' other properties, the St. Lucian and the Royal, on Reduit Beach.

Also set to open is the Harbor Club at the Rodney Bay Marina, with 115 rooms, two restaurants, a full-service spa, and pool recreation space. It sits next to Dive Saint Lucia, a great spot for incentive groups looking to get in some scuba diving.

Curaçao has seen its share of intriguing additions, in particular the newly announced expansion of its airport terminal, expected to be completed in 2018. The Curaçao Marriott is in the midst of renovating its outdoor restaurant, the Palm Café, while the Hilton Curaçao recently unveiled extensive renovations to its dining, recreation, and common areas (including an upgraded beach bar, now renamed Celeste Beach Bar).

For a taste of Curaçao's history, at the end of March the island will be celebrating the 120th anniversary of Chobolobo Factory, the maker of the beloved local liqueur that bears the island's name. To honor the event, the factory will debut five new cocktail workshops -- ideal outings for visiting incentive groups. For a beverage of more recent vintage, the island just opened its first ever winery, located near the Hato International Airport.

The Dominican Republic also continues to draw groups seeking Caribbean splendor, particularly the area of Punta Cana. Visitors to this city will find the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Punta Cana, an all-inclusive getaway with no fewer than 13 pools (complete with swim-up bars and waterslides), nine restaurants, and The Rock Spa (a 60,000-square-foot spa resort within the resort). For groups looking to add some gaming to their experience, the property also boasts a sizable casino floor, complete with machine and table games.

On the island of St. Barths, the rebranded Le Guanahani boutique hotel celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. It recently completed a four-year, $40 million renovation, offering 67 tropical guest cottages as well as the luxurious Spa by Clarins.