by Deanna Ting | October 01, 2014

California Cool 
About 41 percent of respondents to this year's "Travel IQ" picked the Golden State as their top domestic incentive destination. With such a range of cities and experiences to choose from, including wine country, beaches, ski areas, forests, deserts, and cities, it's no wonder why the state continues to draw groups.

The new Ace Hotel Los Angeles 
is drawing interest to downtown LA

Among the newest hotel additions and renovations to California are the new Ace Hotel Los Angeles in the heart of downtown Los Angeles; The Ritz-Carlton, Rancho Mirage in greater Palm Springs; Harrah's Resort Southern California; and the Loews Hollywood Hotel in Los Angeles. 

And while San Francisco, Los Angeles, Anaheim, Palm Springs, and San Diego continue to attract a number of groups, a number of group-friendly cities and regions such as Long Beach, Ontario, Diablo Valley, and Santa Barbara are also hosting incentive groups.

Paradise Found

Warm-weather resorts with lots of different 
activities appeal to incentive groups

 Another perennial favorite domestic incentive destination are the idyllic islands of Hawaii. In this year's "Travel IQ," 36 percent of respondents picked Hawaii as a top travel spot. "From an incentive perspective, Hawaii continues to be incredibly popular," says Stagner. "All of the islands are very popular with our clients."

The Performance Group's Rice agrees. "If our clients aren't picking to travel to an international destination for their trips, they are choosing to go to Hawaii," she says.

Empire State of Mind
Placing fourth in this year's "Travel IQ" was New York, which received 27 percent of the votes. New York City, in particular, had a record year in 2013, welcoming more than 54.3 million visitors. An influx of new hotels that have opened or are slated to open this year is helping bring more groups to the city. They include the Loews Regency New York Hotel, the Park Hyatt New York, and the upcoming SLS Hotel New York.

Viva Las Vegas
In Las Vegas, group business is booming, and the results of this year's "Travel IQ" placed Nevada in fifth place with 26 percent of the vote.

"For group business the best we ever did [at The Venetian and The Palazzo hotels] was 780,000 group rooms back in 2007," says Eric Bello, vice president of sales for Las Vegas Sands Corp. "This year, we'll eclipse the best year ever. Right now, easily, we'll hit 850,000 group rooms at almost as high of a rate as we had back in 2007."

At The Performance Group, Rice is seeing many groups head to Las Vegas as well. "We see a lot of business go to Vegas just because of the size of the groups and because of the value that you can find there."

This year, Vegas saw the openings of a number of new boutique- and design-driven hotels including the SLS Las Vegas, the Delano Las Vegas, and The Cromwell Hotel & Casino. And as more gaming destinations, Vegas included, begin to invest in non-gaming attractions and activities, they are becoming even more popular among incentive groups for their variety in terms of golf, spa, nightclubs, fine dining, and adventures.