by Terri Hardin | September 30, 2016

Tapping Into Technology
Gone are the days of turning off smartphones to relax and get in the moment -- technology is as crucial during incentive events as it has traditionally been at meetings.

"I don't know a hotel right now that doesn't have substantial Wi-Fi, so now it's just negotiating the cost for that," says Phillips.

Brewer adds that the "need for good, fast Wi-Fi, included and available throughout the resort, is greater than ever."

Beyond Wi-Fi, incentive planners must consider tapping into other technology that can enhance the incentive event -- such as social media or apps. For example, Madison Performance Group has developed apps to help planners and attendees enhance the incentive experience.


Izzy Nicosia, Madison Performance Group

"We've invested in building out an attendee app, which allows us to communicate with and also know the location of the attendees," says Izzy Nicosia, vice president of travel operations for the company. "In certain cases, like a South African incentive, where you have attendees spread out in 30 or 40 different lodges across various parks, being able to know where these people are staying -- and the attendees having the ability to communicate back to headquarters or back to other employees who are also attending the incentive at various lodges -- allows an open communication not only for the internal logistic and operational side but for the attendees' perspective as well."

Madison Performance Group's Marc Graber calls this fostering "corporate cultural beliefs that makes attendees feel part of that group." Such an app can also extend the impact of an incentive trip, raising interest in the event months before the program even begins.

Top Trending Destinations
If you think that travel incentives are edging away from European cities anytime soon, think again. "For Europe, the class destinations of Rome, Paris, and London are still on top; but of course, Vienna, Barcelona, Prague, and Switzerland are also popular," says Brewer.

And with favorable exchange rates, many groups who are looking at their first European trip seem to tend towards Spain for value or Italy for popularity, according to Parisi. Well-seasoned European travelers seek destinations like Budapest, Prague, or Croatia (which also tend to be budget-friendly). Among southeastern European destinations, Poland and Slovenia are also popular, according to Hinton.

In Asia-Pacific, Vietnam is beginning to show up on lists, where Australia, New Zealand, and Hawaii are still widely appreciated.

Hinton noted that winter destinations like Iceland, Canada, the Swiss-Italian Alps, and U.S. ski destinations like Colorado and Utah are starting to gain momentum, "specifically for younger generations."

But for adventure and novelty, "clients seem to be expanding their definition of the Caribbean," says Parisi, "pushing south into Central America."

If last year was Costa Rica, she says that this year is Panama, which Parisi calls, "our most-asked-about destination of the year. It feels new, adventurous, and like somewhere attendees haven't been." Plus, the Panama Canal is on the bucket list for many attendees.


Panama City is gaining increased interest
from incentive planners

SITE members will have the opportunity to experience Panama at the SITE Global Conference, Nov. 5 - 7, 2016, to be held at the Westin Playa Bonita Panama City. Those taking part in the conference can choose from more than 25 distinct tours (including five different tours to see and learn about the Panama Canal).

"Clients are looking to try something new after sticking to familiar Caribbean spots," says Parisi. "Destinations like Curaçao and St. Maarten are now on the table."

Another destination that has incentive planners buzzing is Cuba, for which U.S. commercial airlift began in August -- for the first time in 50 years.

"Cuba is hot!" says McVeigh. "Our first program will take place in Havana in November 2017."  

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This article appears in the September/October 2016 issue of Incentive.