by Deanna Ting | October 01, 2014

All In 
All-inclusive resorts, like cruises, are also becoming a popular incentive travel program choice. "About 16 percent of IRF study participants said they are moving to all-inclusive destinations," says Randall. Much like cruises, today's all-inclusive resorts have evolved to offer more luxurious, upscale experiences and value.

"Another trend we've seen are the high-end luxury all-inclusive resorts," says Stagner. "You really have these stepped-up opportunities in Cancun and Puerto Vallarta, and many of our customers see them as really great values where they can get a lot more for their money. That's why these destinations and properties are so popular."

The popularity of all-inclusive properties is also attracting big name hotel brands. This year, Hyatt Hotels & Resorts, in partnership with Playa Hotels & Resorts, debuted its Hyatt Ziva and Hyatt Zilara all-inclusive brands in Mexico and, later this year, in Jamaica.


Business Meets Pleasure 
When it comes to mixing business into an incentive trip, it's 50/50 says Randall. "The IRF conducted a meetings incentive group travel integration study last year that I was very involved with, and we found that it was really almost an even split between the amount of people that do and the amount of people that do not incorporate a meeting," she says. "The differentiator is the culture of the organization, and making that meeting experience something that enhances the participants' job or personal life so that it really makes that a benefit to them that they get versus anyone else who might have not earned the trip."

CWT's Wagner says that his clients with a global presence are incorporating business-related excursions into their programs. "They might include a visit to that international site, or a key supplier. We see that with a couple of our global customers and there's an immense appeal to that for the earners who are there."


From Sea to Shining Sea 
As in years past, warm-weather destinations with a variety of activities and attractions were the No. 1 destinations for incentive travel programs in this year's Incentive "Travel IQ" survey. (For the full survey results, please visit IncentiveMag.com).

On a global scale, too, incentive destinations within North America were the overwhelming favorite among those surveyed in the IRF's "Spring 2014 Pulse Study." "Forty-nine percent of respondents said that North America was their chosen region for incentive travel programs, and that the numbers and program length are remaining the same," says Randall.

Here's a closer look at the top domestic incentive travel destinations for 2014.


Florida Is Still No. 1 
The most popular domestic destination for incentive programs, according to this year's "Travel IQ," is Florida, which garnered 47 percent of the vote. From Miami, Orlando, and Fort Lauderdale to Naples, Tampa, and St. Petersburg, the state of Florida offers incentive groups plenty of warm climates, beautiful scenery, and one-of-a-kind attractions and activities.

Fort Lauderdale, FL, was a popular incentive travel destination 
this year says Dittman Incentive Marketing's Marty Doyle

 "South Florida, especially Miami, was very popular for our clients this year," says CWT Meetings & Events' Wagner. Miami has recently seen a number of new properties, including the 74-room boutique Metropolitan by COMO, Miami Beach. This November, the 380-room Thompson Miami Beach and the 294-room Miami Beach EDITION are expected to open.

Dittman Incentive Marketing's Doyle found Fort Lauderdale to be a "very appealing destination" for his clients this year. He says, "It offers great weather, spectacular beaches, a lively and diverse restaurant scene, and the city chic of Las Olas Boulevard. It is easily accessible from both Fort Lauderdale and Miami airports, and there are numerous direct flights from many U.S. cities. Miami always appeals for its vibrancy and trendy nightlife, but Fort Lauderdale offers a calmer, more sophisticated resort ambiance which is ideal for many corporate-sponsored incentive programs and is appreciated by incentive program winners."

For groups seeking idyllic beach getaways, Florida's more laid-back West Coast also makes an ideal incentive destination. The white-sand beaches of St. Petersburg/Clearwater region are frequently voted among the top beaches in the U.S. This year, St. Pete Beach was named TripAdvisor's best beach in its annual "25 Best U.S. Beaches" list. Nearby Caladesi Island State Park and Clearwater Beach also made the list. Marco Island was voted the top island destination in the U.S. by TripAdvisor readers, and Naples, FL was voted as one of the 20 best food cities in the U.S. by readers of Condé Nast Traveler.

In Naples, the Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club joined Associated Luxury Hotels International in February, becoming its first member in the Southwest Florida region. The Ritz-Carlton, Naples, also recently completed a redesign in October 2013 that included renovations to its 450 guestrooms and various restaurants.