by Deanna Ting | October 01, 2014

Western Europe Entices
With 23 percent of votes in Incentive's "Travel IQ" survey, Western Europe cemented its spot as a top incentive travel region. Countries such as Spain, Ireland, Portugal, Scotland, and Italy were especially popular, according to our experts.

"For the third year in a row, Spain is in demand," says Doyle. "We have recently operated programs in both Madrid and Barcelona with great success. Program participants discover the rich Spanish culture through the exceptional cuisine and a wide array of activities, from visiting historic sites to behind-the-scenes access at iconic soccer stadiums. From Madrid, chic and intimate Marbella is easily reached aboard Spain's high-speed AVE train. This makes it possible to combine three nights in Madrid with three nights by the sea for a truly unforgettable experience.  In addition, our Spanish-based partners have a good grasp of the high level of service and quality required by incentive clients and are able to deliver, with Spanish style, but in American time."

USMotivation's Weede says that "easy entry points to Europe are hot now." For her clients, that often means planning programs in destinations that include Ireland, Scotland, Italy, and Portugal. Portugal was also named by Wagner as a top Western European destination, as was Ireland. Lisbon, Portugal, in particular, is becoming a popular incentive travel program spot thanks to its great value, ease of access, and unique culture.

Oh, Canada
Our neighbor to the North continues to attract incentives to destinations that include Vancouver, Whistler, and Banff. In this year's "Travel IQ" survey, a total of 14 percent of respondents chose Canada as a top incentive locale.

"We have interest in Vancouver and Whistler, depending on the length of the program, year-round," says Stagner. "We do tend to do Banff and Lake Louise, too. We also often put together great outdoor programs like high-end fishing trips for groups who head to these destinations."

At CWT Meetings & Events, Wagner says groups "are going back to Banff and Vancouver-type areas, and sometimes we also do a Quebec City and Montreal combination for people who want more of an international feel with a lower budget."

The Lure of Latin America
 Although Central and South America did not rank high in this year's "Travel IQ" survey, each had six percent of respondents calling them top destinations, the experts whom we spoke to, as well as the IRF's "Spring Pulse Study," showed that there is tremendous interest in the region.


Costa Rica was an especially popular
incentive travel destination this year

 Both Stagner and Rice noted that Costa Rica, in particular, was a very popular incentive travel destination for many groups this past year. "That's one of our top 10," says Stagner.

"It's a new international destination for us. It's very easy to get to. The other piece of it is that you can be at the Four Seasons, but also be in the rainforest and ziplining. Costa Rica has a great combination of adventure and nice hotels. It's not always just about going to the spa and playing golf. People do want to get out and be more active. They want to be more active, and Costa Rica allows them that."

Wagner also sees groups heading to Peru to fulfill "bucket-list" wishes and he sees "growing interest in Colombia, whether it's Cartagena or Bogota." He adds, "For something that wasn't on people's radar, Colombia has been recently, and it's relatively affordable to get there. It's not as expensive as Chile or Brazil." He has also had clients who have traveled to Argentina.

Asia Rising
Asia, as a region, is also attracting incentive groups with ties to the region, bringing them to countries that include China, Indonesia, Vietnam, and Thailand.

Rice and Wagner have also seen a resurgence in demand for Bali, Indonesia, this year. "Eight years ago, there were a lot of programs there and then it slowed down," says Rice. "Now, it's seems to be re-emerging."

Stagner notes that because "there's a significant oversupply of luxury hotels in Asia, it's the only place right now where it's a buyer's market." She adds, "If end-user customers were proactive, they might extend their programs to be longer and go to China. You can get a Four Seasons or Mandarin Oriental in China or any other luxury property at one-third of the price that you can get here."

The Bucket List
"Bucket-list" destinations include Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific Islands, of which 10 percent of respondents in Incentive's "Travel IQ" survey chose as a top incentive destination. "I think everyone would love to go there," says Wagner. "It's a premium type program and it's up there in time frame, but it definitely has strong appeal. If you have the right mix of incentive program and how it's working for the customer it might be considered. There's good service to those locations from the U.S."

Another area that is atop many travelers' bucket lists is Africa -- primarily South Africa -- which 6.54 percent called a top incentive destination in the "Travel IQ" survey, beating out Central and South America, as well as Asia (6.07 percent), except for China (7.48 percent). South Africa's scenic and safe Cape Town and luxury safari camps, as well as Victoria Falls on the Zambia/Zimbabwe border, are the primary incentive destinations for groups.