by Donna M. Airoldi | March 21, 2017

Graber noted he's seeing a lot of interest in Canada lately, because of the weakened Canadian dollar. Groups have been heading to Banff and Vancouver, but planners particularly noted Whistler.

This year-round destination offers hiking, mountain biking, and kayaking during the warmer months, and skiing, dogsledding, and snowmobiling during winter, explains Graber. "The Millennials, especially, like those high-action sports."

Swailes adds that groups have gone on ATV tours or Jeep excursions looking for bears and other wild animals. There are also geo-tracking activities, where participants are sent off and have to find their way back to base camp. Plus, Whistler has Olympic venues. "It's great when you have a program the year prior [to a Games], as it's a great way to theme it and get them excited for the Olympics," she says.

Dubai has seen an increase in incentive bookings the past year, says Steen Jakobsen, director of Dubai Business Events, and 2017 is looking to be another strong year. The destination provides a taste of the Middle East, with desert safaris and camel rides, coupled with private dining and even overnight experiences on the dunes for a Bedouin experience.

Culture enthusiasts can visit the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and the souk where they can learn the art of bartering. Swailes said having an Arabic luncheon with a local and asking him questions about the culture appealed to many attendees on a recent trip.

And luxury is everywhere. There are five-star hotels where you don't check in -- your private butler greets you to take you to your suite overlooking the water, says Nixon. The Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, is where you can have cocktails among the clouds on the 124th floor. You can also helicopter off the top of the building to Ferraris below and drive to Ferrari World in Abu Dhabi, then get a behind-the-scenes tour with engineers and drive simulators, she adds.

Hawaii offers something for
every type of incentive group

Hawaii offers a little bit of everything, which is why it's so appealing. According to the Hawaii Tourism Authority, the compound annual growth rate for incentive visitors to the islands is 17.1 percent since 2012, with the total number nearly doubling since then. U.S. visitors account for nearly one third of that total, and have increased 16.5 percent during the period.

Outdoor adventures are the main draw, and groups aren't just going scuba diving or learning how to surf anymore. They're scooter snorkeling (powered by an underwater motor) and subwinging (pulled by a boat for underwater flying), as offered by Alaka'i Nalu at the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai. They're rappelling down 50-foot waterfalls in the Puohokamoa Valley, located on the Hana Highway.

"Hotels understand more and more you have to bring the local community and that environment into a standard brand experience," says IRF's Van Dyke, adding that the Grand Wailea has a cultural advisor for Native Hawaiian questions, from how to incorporate native rituals into a program to how a planner might phrase things in collateral materials.  

Questions or comments? Email [email protected]

This article appears in the March/April 2017 issue of Incentive.