Cities that connote luxury, like Monte Carlo and Dubai, make for incred- ible incentive programs. But what
about other locations where a VIP environment doesn’t immediately come to mind?
There are a few ways that smart planners
can create a sense of luxury in their programs regardless of the destination.
The first thing to remember is that luxury
today does not mean the same thing it did
20 years ago.
“It is no longer about the acquisition of
‘things’ but about being in the know, appre-
ciating the best of the best, about the experi-
ence, and the story of the experience,” says
Cindy Hoddeson, director, North America
of the Monaco Government Tourist Office.
“Today’s incentive participants relish the
hunt of the experience, and discovering a
destination’s hidden gems. They may also
perceive unstructured time as a luxury.”
It’s also less about the destination and
more about what planners can do in that
“People aren’t going to [second-tier cities]
and saying, ‘Ooh, this is going to be high luxury,’” says Sarah Ethridge, account director
for incentive house Madison. “But it’s where
you house them and how you treat them
from beginning to end that creates that sense
of specialness and luxury.”
The Welcome Experience
One thing experts agree on is to make sure
attendees feel welcomed as soon as they step
off the plane, especially with how frustrating
travel can be these days. Have a personalized
meet-and-greet at the airport. When possible,
use black cars or other smaller vehicles, rather than large coaches, to transfer guests to
their hotels. Have bottles of water available
and towels — warm or cool, depending on
the location — “so they feel they are being
taken care of,” says Jane Scaletta, general
manager for Allied PRA South Florida, who
often uses orange-scented towels to bring in
the aroma of the region.
When guests arrive at the hotel, provide a
refreshing beverage, a cocktail or mocktail,
using a local syrup, flavor, or distiller. Then
provide the product as a room gift along
with a recipe. “Create a sense of place
throughout the program,” says Ethridge.
“Little details are the things that tip over
Long drives and coaches sometimes can’t
be avoided, but the time can go quicker and
the transfer made more memorable with a
storyteller or performer along for the ride.
For groups heading to Key West, Scaletta
has hired a musician who plays the role of
a hitchhiker with guitar that the bus driver
picks up en route. He then entertains the
guests by singing songs, and, ideally, makes
the trip feel shorter. Or provide guests with
a photo book on the region that they can
peruse on the drive.
Elizabeth Powers, service design and
event producer for Allied PRA in Dallas/
Fort Worth, hires a company that puts on
a train robbery show for vintage rail transfers between Fort Worth and Grapevine,
TX. She also makes use of a replica Blues
Brothers–mobile from the House of Blues,
as well as local car collector clubs for classic automobiles. “A lot of rental companies
won’t have that access,” she says.
Another popular option is to provide a
police escort, especially if you weren’t able to
secure VIP vehicles. It gives the attendees a
sense of importance, and helps eliminate getting stuck in traffic, says Powers.
For a walking transfer in Miami to a
restaurant for one client, Scaletta hired a
Junkanoo band for a Caribbean-style parade.
“Police closed off the section of the street
between the hotel and venue, and everyone
danced to the music on their way to dinner,”
The Hotel Experience
This is obvious, but find the best hotel
your budget will allow. If high-end brands
aren’t in the destination, there are ways to
spruce up the hotel experience.
For small- to medium-sized groups,
find a boutique property and buy it out
for exclusivity. Where that’s not possible, talk to management about having
poolside perks just for attendees, such as
water spritzers, popsicles or ice cream, and
cabanas available for full-body massages.
Properties that tap into the local culture or
history bring their own grandeur. For example, the recently enhanced Highland Dallas
infuses Texas charm into every amenity,
including its on-site steakhouse Knife; or the
Casa Marina Resort in Key West, FL, which
puts its century of Florida history (and luxury)
Selecting a property infused with local culture, such as
The Highland Dallas, helps enhance an incentive trip
Work closely with a property, such as Caesars Las Vegas, to
customize its event space to your group