by Andrea Doyle | May 31, 2016

Wellness Travel 
Wellness travel and retreats -- experiences that leave travelers healthier when they check out than when they checked in -- are increasingly popular with incentive groups.

Wellness travel is far more than a passing trend. It is a $489 billion global market, according to the most recent research from the Global Wellness Institute. These global wellness tourism numbers will be updated in October, when released at the Global Wellness Summit, and GWI predicts this number will grow to $679 billion by 2017. That represents an approximate annual 10 percent growth since 2012.

"Wellness travel destinations offer a wide range of group activities from yoga to rock climbing that are a perfect fit for teambuilding activities. And they offer ample opportunity to learn new skills, such as meditation, that will ultimately reduce stress and enhance performance," says Beth McGroarty, research director of Miami, FL-based Spafinder Wellness, a marketing, gifting, incentives, and rewards company for the wellness industry. A retreat or trip to a wellness travel destination shows employees and clients that management cares about their health and happiness and underscores the company's core values.

"Successful leaders recognize people as the most valuable entity within an organization," says Dr. Mehmet Oz, cardiothoracic surgeon, TV show host, and best-selling author. That's why it is important to keep employees healthy and engaged. People want optimum health and as a result, wellness travel is on the rise.

Motivation is an important part of an incentive trip, but so is demonstrating meaningful change that can be made in one's life. "You have the unique ability in a meeting environment to take your people out of the normal swimming pool and instill wisdom that can lead to change," says Dr. Oz.


Incentive attendees respond
well to healthy activity options

Aimia recently planned an incentive program at the Calistoga Ranch in California that focused on health and wellness. Aimia reached out to Andrea von Behren, R.D., owner of Body Language Fitness & Yoga Center in Commerce, MI, to lead the group in yoga and Zumba each morning. Her ability to offer a holistic approach to wellness through her training as a registered dietitian, certified yoga teacher, and certified fitness instructor was just what Aimia wanted.

"Participation in these events was outstanding, further illustrating that health and wellness should continue to be a top priority when planning incentive programs," says Tina Gaccetta, vice president of client services for Aimia. "Wellness and balance at work continues to be a growing trend."

This healthy addition to the incentive program was well received by the attendees. "Participants voiced a desire to continue focusing on their wellness when they headed back home, as a result of their positive experience with us," adds von Behren.

As you enter the Lodge at Woodloch
with its iconic chakra bowls under
a 14-foot glass cupola, you enter
a property that focuses on
personal awakening

Fitness and wellness classes, outdoor adventures, creative discovery workshops, guided hikes, yoga, mountain biking, and golf and cooking classes are among the activities featured at The Lodge at Woodloch, a destination spa set on a lake in Hawley, PA that embraces a philosophy of personal awakening.

Given its size -- 57 guest rooms  -- an incentive group can take over the entire resort. Its restaurant, fitness rooms, breathtaking 40,000-square-foot spa with fireplace-equipped quiet rooms, indoor pool with hydromassage waterfalls, and outdoor, horizon-edge whirlpool will be all theirs.

Bespoke Transportation 
Who would have ever thought it would cost $50 to check a second bag, $11 for a meal, $10 for extra legroom? Feeling chilly? A pillow and blanket costs $7. Beyond these lucrative new charges, airlines have cut expenses by abandoning some smaller airports, making it even harder to reach certain destinations. Then there are labyrinthine security lines, interrupted service, and delays, to say nothing of overcrowded planes.

Incentive planners are finding just the opposite is true with charter companies, which set a schedule, itinerary, and even choose an aircraft type based on the needs of the group. The planner also selects departure and arrival points with the capability of landing at thousands of less-congested airports inaccessible to commercial planes.


Private jet charters set a tone
that enhances the program before
the award recipients even get
to the destination

Taylor says that during her career, "the most memorable incentives are those that had a private charter plane to go to different destinations across China and Europe."

She adds, "They charter a large private jet to go to multiple destinations, and when it lands, everything is taken care of for them. Immigration and security on the plane, then they're whisked off to their hotels by a limousine on the tarmac. These are top-of-the-range incentives, which are usually no more than 75 to 100 winners and their guests. You can almost feel the buzz -- and that's what makes you very loyal to your company, because you can't buy that type of experience."

David Goodman,
Private Jet Services Group

Once airborne, meals catered from favorite restaurants can be served, specialty liquors provided, and amenity kits and headrest covers can be logoed, says David Goodman, a partner in Private Jet Services Group (PJS), a corporate aviation consultancy based in Seabrook, NH. "There have been times when the aircraft is waiting for the group at a private terminal where a gourmet meal is served before boarding," he says, adding that for one group, PJS arranged to have the company logo emblazoned on the side of the aircraft. "A charter ups the 'wow' factor of an incentive program. If a winner has been to a destination before but is flying on a private aircraft for the first time, it impresses," adds Goodman.

PJS recently worked with a technology company that brought 400 participants to the Bahamas on Boeing 767s. Noting that a group of this size would not have been able to access the location of their incentive trip easily using commercial carriers, he adds, "They had a terrible experience using commercial airlines for their last incentive program with missed connections and lost bags. The CEO of the company vowed never to put his top people through that experience again. Using a charter for their program this year was a resounding success. Everyone arrived on time, got their bags, and no one waited in an airport for hours." Many companies have taken advantage of this time together and have arranged for in-flight speeches or to broadcast taped messages from the upper brass, he adds.