by Terri Hardin | September 30, 2016

Come to the Table
The importance of memorable experiences extends to the incentive travel F&B more than ever as well. "Quality food has always been important," says Phillips, "but now it's important to have a good, interesting meal, to expose people to new things."


Touring London's local markets
provides incentive winners
a memorable culinary experience

For example, in London, Phillips is creating a private tea at famed department store Fortnum & Mason, followed by gastro tours of specialty markets, joined by food writers and chefs.

Wine tastings and craft beer demonstrations are also popular. "We have some groups that want to truly embrace the culture and experience the destination through local cooking lessons, mixology, and dance lessons," says Brewer.

Interactive classes -- particularly cooking classes -- are especially popular. For McVeigh, it's banquet chefs who demonstrate a "spice rub" for the group or a "catch of the day" lesson. Mixology classes, creating your own mac and cheese, and customizing your dessert are also well-received options.

The Bucket List
"A few years ago it was sometimes hard to get companies to consider something out of the ordinary," recalls Wayne Wallgren, principal of Dallas-based WorldWide Incentives, Inc. "A lot of our repeat clients have become more interested in offering new or less conventional activities."

Indeed, for incentive travel participants who get to check off a "bucket-list" item, there's no better way to build loyalty and help someone feel motivated, according to Hinton. For this reason, he adds that incentive planners are seeking new and unique ways to immerse participants in the local geography and cultures with more educational opportunities and networking experiences.

Brewer agrees that incentive travelers want their experiences to be different than what they can do on their own.

"Personalized and customized experiences will continue to grow along with such once-in-a-lifetime opportunities as cooking with a celebrity chef or golfing with a pro," she says. Of course, planning such creative experiences means that corporate and third-party meeting planners are "pushing DMCs hard to come up with the next greatest idea."

Finally, luxury -- or as close to luxury as the budget will allow -- has made a return to incentive programs. According to Wallgren, "We are getting more interest in what I will call premium or more upscale properties, all-inclusive (depending on the destination), and suite levels."