by Andrea Doyle | January 24, 2019
In our ever-tightening world, chances are that many incentive winners have already visited the classic destinations, so it stands to reason that to keep a program fresh, planners need to seek further afield.

"The demand from our clients for more new and exciting destinations is why we continue to build a network that represents all of these diverse destinations," says Catherine Chaulet, president of Global DMC Partners, the largest global network of independent destination management companies. "Overall, we believe there can be different reasons for these places to be considered emerging destinations, depending on whether you are drawing from a U.S., European or international client's perspective."

Global DMC Partners President Catherine Chaulet.
Among the emerging destinations that are catching incentive planners' eyes, according to Chaulet, are the following, all of which entice by having an element of the unknown while being safe, cost-effective and, well, just "Wow!"  
Croatia (pictured)
"This is a beautiful but not-so-well-known melting-pot destination that has not been experienced by many," says Chaulet. "It's somewhat cheaper than other sunny European destinations. The mix of European culture has had a beautiful impact on the country as a whole, as you will find influences from Italy as well as Eastern Europe. Its crystal-clear water and islands like Hvar, the summer hot spot for the rich and famous, make it very appealing for incentives."
Costa Rica
"Costa Rica's tropical appeal makes it exotic to both U.S. and European groups," says Chaulet. New, upscale hotels are opening here, while existing properties are being renovated and/or shifting management. This Central American nation is easily accessible, as it is a short distance from many major U.S. cities, and offers myriad adventures and activities ranging from tours of the rugged terrain to trekking, zip lining and surfing - and all while being surprisingly cost-effective.
Cartagena is a booming city that has revamped its entire infrastructure to cater to larger groups while still keeping the personality of the city. "It is considered much safer now, and there is a great infrastructure built around managing incentives and groups," says Chaulet.

"Brazil, a country that is already popular for large congresses, is now becoming popular for incentives due to the authentic experiences that it can offer," explains Chaulet. The destination received lots of publicity hosting the World Cup and Olympics, which proved it has the infrastructure to handle larger groups. "It has exotic, amazing cities like Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro and beautiful nature throughout," Chaulet enthuses.
New Zealand
"The natural breathtaking beauty of the island makes it very appealing for incentives," says Chaulet. "There are picturesque mountains along with beautiful areas of sandy beaches and warm weather, so the contrast is very appealing. It has been and can still be difficult to travel to for most of our clients, due to the length of the flight, but we've found that clients might be more willing nowadays to travel to long-haul destinations to experience something new."
This is another global gem that presents a good value, especially for dining and accommodations. Planners will often find that they can present five-star options for four-star prices when compared to other European destinations. Three islands, Gozo, Mdina and Valletta, can be combined into one unique trip, and the country has a rich cultural heritage with temples dating back to 6000 B.C.
Thailand presents an exotic blend of modern and ancient cultures that seamlessly coexist. For incentives especially, the country offers luxury comforts graced with refined hospitality, and an array of engaging experiences at competitive prices.
South Africa
This is one of those bucket-list destinations that increasingly are being chosen as planners strive to present more exotic locations for incentive trips. Cape Town's cosmopolitan nature can easily be combined with an African safari in the bush, giving attendees the best of both worlds.
United Arab Emirates
"The UAE has not been as popular in the past due to the conflicts in the Middle East, but we see Dubai and Abu Dhabi start to come up more and more," says Chaulet. "It's very accessible for European clients and offers guaranteed sunshine with wonderful venues and cultural appeal."
This storied land is "seen as something very different to offer because of the diverse range of unique activities, most notably their hot springs, which are surrounded by incredible mountains and glaciers," says Chaulet. "Plus, it's a short flight to enter a different world. It's not inexpensive, so this is for a select clientele - which is why it is more popular for incentives."