by Alex Palmer | November 03, 2017
Dozens of incentive buyers as well as suppliers for top incentive destinations, hotel brands, and DMCs have gathered in Reykjavik, Iceland, for the second annual Global Incentive Summit (GIS). Hosted by Northstar Meetings Group, of which Incentive is a member, in partnership with the Society for Incentive Travel Excellence (SITE), the gathering gave members of the industry an opportunity to network, learn, and experience a buzzed-about incentive destination. 

Attendees arrived at the host hotels -- the 99-room Hotel Borg and adjacent 45-room Apotek Hotel, set in the heart of the city and overlooking Austurvöllur square -- throughout the day on Nov. 1. Some took part in a walking tour of Reykjavik, arranged by GIS sponsor Iceland Congress Incentive & Events, giving them an opportunity to learn about the city's rich history, from the Viking past to the four decades it took to build the city's iconic Hallgrímskirkja church.

GIS formally kicked off in the evening with a welcome reception held in the Reykjavik City Hall. Reykjavik City Council President Líf Magneudóttir welcomed the attendees and pointed out how appropriate the venue was for a group meeting to seek out new international business opportunities. She emphasized Reykjavik's strengths as an incentive and meeting destination that's "easy to navigate, packed with people and cultural attractions." Over local beer and bites, the attendees networked and discussed new business opportunities.

The second day of GIS began with breakfast at the Hotel Borg. Between enjoying their coffee or eggs, each attendee was fitted for a new pair of sunglasses at the Maui Jim Sunglasses merchandise bar. From there, attendees headed into the Karolinastofa conference area, where suppliers met with qualified buyers for a series of 15-minute, one-on-one meetings. 

Lunch, sponsored by visitors bureau Meet in Reykjavik, was held at the expansive Harpa Concert Hall & Conference Center, where visitors toured the 1,800-capacity Eldborg concert hall, 520-capacity Norðurljós recital hall, and numerous other spaces. The interior was as striking as the colored-glass façade, designed to evoke fish scales, on this waterfront venue. Over lunch, the attendees were treated to a series of quick-hit "TED-style talks" during the SITE Educational Session. 

Site Executive Committee Member and Manager of Corporate Gifts, NW, Mexico & Europe for Maui Jim Sunglasses Jonathan Richards outlined the findings from the latest SITE Index research, drawn from respondents in 72 countries. Among the finding were that average spend for incentive travel increased and budgets were up, but planners were also looking to reduce costs at the same time. 

Aideen Morrin, sales and marketing director at Event Partners Ireland, then discussed contingency planning for incentive events, emphasizing that "recent events have shown us that unpredictability is the new normal." She described a few situations where unforeseen circumstances required a quick response, most recently in October when Hurricane Ophelia required the team at Event Partners Ireland to rearrange plans for nine fam trips and a 2,756-person trade show taking place as the storm hit. "Most people accept that things can go wrong, but they will judge you on how you handle it," she added. 

Director of Strategic Partnerships at Ovation Global and Site Past President Hugo Slimbrouck rounded out the afternoon with a talk on "Selling by Storytelling," discussing how anecdotes and the emotional power of a story can be a powerful tool for influencing others. "Stories have to ignite the imagination," he said, adding tips such as using props and pictures, and inserting a story to help empathize with a "pain the person may have."
After a morning of meetings and education, the attendees prepared for outings to experience Iceland first hand -- an ATV outing across the Icelandic landscape, a tour of the local Omnom Chocolate factory, or trip to the famous Blue Lagoon.