by Matt Alderton | March 08, 2018
Some destinations have always been popular with meeting and incentive groups, and probably always will be. Other destinations, however, are only now finding an audience after years of careful investment and concerted outreach. Both types of destinations -- the traditional and the trending -- make an appearance in the 2018 Special Destinations Report, published yesterday by destination management companies Pacific World and ACCESS Destination Services.

"More and more, we keep seeing interest for off-the-beaten-track programs and destinations," said Patricia Silvio, global marketing manager of Pacific World. "While known destinations are still preferred for incentives, unique experiences are now in demand. This can be visiting remote places, engaging with local people in a more dynamic way, enjoying the unexpected, or having the feeling of being the first person to visit a particular place."

Based on the companies' annual Destination Index -- which reflects more than 5,000 international inquiries from meeting and incentive planners, actual meeting and event results, and feedback from meeting and incentive participants from around the world -- the report highlights the most popular destinations for meetings, incentives, and conferences in three global regions: Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA); Asia; and the United States.

EMEA

In EMEA, the hottest destinations this year are Spain, the United Kingdom, and France.

In Spain, Pacific World and ACCESS report, groups are most interested in discovering historic places where they can interact with authentic craftsmen, entrepreneurs, artists, and fishermen who can expose them to local culture and traditions. Although, trendy and luxurious lifestyle destinations like Ibiza, Malaga, and Ronda also are popular.

In the United Kingdom, groups are attracted to popular culture, according to Pacific World and ACCESS, which say experiences themed around British television shows and movies -- for example, Downtown Abbey, Harry Potter, The Crown, and the recently released Murder on the Orient Express -- are big draws. Trending in the country is Scotland, where groups are interested in bespoke local experiences that bring them face-to-face with bag pipe makers, whiskey distillers, and other local artisans.

In France, Pacific World and ACCESS say groups are fixated increasingly on Bordeaux, where La Cité du Vin -- a new, high-tech wine museum -- is a major draw, and where new high-speed rail service from Paris has made arrivals more quick and convenient than ever.

Asia

In Asia, the hottest destinations this year are China, Indonesia, and Hong Kong.

In China, a growing middle class and the relocation of many manufacturing plants have given rise to a new crop of second-tier cities with a growing hotel stock. Increasingly, new hotels in those cities are in the mid-scale and budget categories, which has opened China up to more meeting and incentive groups, according to Pacific World and ACCESS, which says some out-of-the-way destinations also are popular because of the unique experiences they offer. Chengdu, for example, is popular for its panda population while Yunnan is popular for those who want to safely experience Tibetan culture.

In Indonesia, Bali continues to be the go-to destination. Rising stars, however, include the islands of Lombok, Komodo, and Flores, where infrastructure is growing and unique culture, flora, and fauna dominate.

In Hong Kong, a major driver of meetings business is China's plan to turn nine cities in its Pearl River Delta (PRD) region -- including Hong Kong -- into a single, interconnected megacity, according to Pacific World and ACCESS. Developments like the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge and Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link, they report, will connect Hong Kong to cities like Shenzhen and Macau, making it possible for meeting professionals to create an "eco-system of intercity, multi-session meetings in different locales."

United States

In the United States, the hottest destinations this year are Dallas, Colorado, and Las Vegas, each of which has new hotels and offerings that are driving interest among meeting and incentive professionals.

In Dallas, for example, an effort is underway to beautify the Dallas Arts District, which is the largest contiguous urban arts district in the country. The city's trendy Deep Ellum neighborhood also is experiencing a revival.

In Las Vegas, the arrival of new sports teams -- the National Hockey League's Golden Knights and the National Football League's Raiders -- means there are new experiences available to meeting and incentive groups that weren't there prior. New venues also continue to proliferate, including The Park Las Vegas, T-Mobile Arena, and Paradise Park, a $1.5 billion project that will break ground this year and ultimately have a lagoon for water sports surrounded by white-sand beaches, a convention facility, and new hotel rooms.

Finally, there's Colorado, where Rocky Mountain resorts continue to lure meeting and incentive groups with fresh offerings, including activities like axe throwing; VIP "boutique" tours, like a sunset canoe or snowmobile excursion followed by a private dinner in a yurt or teepee; and thrills like alpine coasters, which are a new addition at resorts like Copper Mountain, Breckenridge, and Steamboat.