Don't just sit there, do something!
No, that's not your mother talking; it's the refrain of the growing ranks of incentive planners who are designing more active, outdoor-based incentives for top performers who are growing bored with sipping cocktails on the beach year after year.
"A general trend in our country is to be healthier and more physically active," says Judy Jackson, director of industry relations for St. Louis-based Maritz Travel. "Combined with the need to vary incentive choices, it's really a double trend." So, rather than stick with the tried-and-true formula of a week at a beach resort, planners are investigating the potential for luxury adventure travel.
"The people on these trips are obviously very successful and enjoy being challenged outside of the office as much as in the office," observes Tryg Brody, executive director of sales for The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, WV, who regularly hosts these types of incentives. Active incentive trips give winners the chance to try new sports, learn new skills, or reconnect with old hobbies.
The only caveat: It might not be for everyone, so play to your audience. "It's an award trip, so as such, it's got to be their cup of tea," says Nancy Ogden, vice president of sales at Maritz. "If you know your audience, you know how it's going to go over."
Here, four interesting properties for active, outdoor-based incentive trips.
Clayoquot Wilderness Resorts & Spa
Tofino, British Columbia
Ask experienced planners about outdoor-driven incentives, and inevitably, Clayoquot's name comes up. This property gets high marks for its luxurious amenities, range of activities, and environmental legacy program. Located in the rain forest of the Clayoquot Sound Biosphere Reserve, Clayoquot comprises two locations, the Bedwell River Outpost and the Quait Bay Lodge (closed for renovation until 2007). The Bedwell River Outpost consists of 23 luxury guest and family-suite canvas tents, dining tents, spa tents, and lounge tents, as well as a meeting tent.
General Manager John Caton estimates that some 30 percent of his business derives from incentive groups, who, he says, are drawn to the property because of the variety of activities it offers. Caton says incentive groups participate in horseback riding, saltwater and freshwater fishing, trap and skeet shooting, and river- and sea-kayaking. "It's about getting out there and having the outdoor experience while being pampered," he says.
Nancy Ogden, vice president of sales at Maritz Travel, who brought a group of top performers to Clayoquot in 2005, calls it "one of the most unique places I've ever been to on Earth. We were prepared to get wet, to rough it, but it is extreme comfort and luxury, out there in the middle of the wilderness." Ogden liked the property so much, she planned her own wedding there.
Corporate groups also like Clayoquot's Environmental Legacy Program, which offers seven stewardships in which attendees can participate, including bear mapping, raptor rehabilitation, and whale acoustics.
White Sulphur Springs, WV
Set on 6,500 acres in the Allegheny mountains of West Virginia, The 803-room Greenbrier offers an array of activities on site through its Off-Road Driving School and its Gun Club, as well as whitewater rafting, mountain biking, kayaking, climbing, croquet, horseback riding, golf, tennis, and swimming. DeeAnn Overton, an account manager with Atlanta-based incentive house USMotivation, says her incentive winners like these "learning-type activities. At first, they're not too sure about it, but once they try it, they absolutely love it," she says. "They love to do something different, something out of the ordinary." But for those with more traditional tastes, The Greenbrier also has a spa, which incorporates the healing mineral waters that have been drawing wellness-seekers to the area for more than 200 years.
Tryg Brody, executive director of sales, estimates that of the 500 groups he hosts annually, some 100 are incentives. The property has a production company on site that helps planners coordinate group activities and that also caters to incentive winners who bring their kids along. "Once, the production company set up an entire fair-type theme park on our north lawn, with actual rides and everything."
Incentive groups also enjoy learning about the storied history of The Greenbrier, a National Historic Landmark, including its long-secret underground bunker, built to host the entire U.S. Congress in the event of war.
The Equinox Resort & Spa
Manchester Village, VT
The 183-room Equinox Resort & Spa has received AAA's Four Diamond Award for 13 consecutive years. Nevertheless, incentive groups who come here routinely cite the resort's outdoor activities and perch at the base of Mount Equinox (between the Green and Taconic mountain ranges) as its main attractions. The property features an 18-hole Gleneagles golf course, The Archery School, The British School of Falconry, the Orvis Shooting & Fly Fishing School, the Off-Road Driving School, and the Cross-Country Touring Center. Activities, which include a teambuilding trust exercise involving blindfolded driving, and falconry and archery competitions, can be done individually or as group challenges.
Sandy Strauss, executive assistant for the east division of Roseland, NJ-based ADP, the payroll and benefits service firm, brought a sales incentive to Equinox in March and says that aside from the Avanyu Spa, the most popular activities among her attendees included falconry, snowmobiling, and off-roading. She praises the property for its proximity to off-site dining options. "Manchester Village is perfectly situated to handle 10 to 15 dinners off-site, and has restaurants that can accommodate that many people and that are high-end," she says.
In addition to the off-site restaurants, Equinox also has three restaurants, including the showpiece Marsh Tavern, which dates back to 1769 and is located in the resort's original structure.
The Four Seasons Tented Camp
Chiang Rai, Thailand
66 (53) 910 200
The Four Seasons' take on camping opened in January in the jungle near Chiang Rai in northern Thailand. The Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle is accessible only by riverboat and is named for the "triangle" at the intersection of the borders of Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar. The Camp consists of 15 air-conditioned and heated luxury tents (to accommodate a maximum of 30 guests on property at once) with recycled teak floors, king-size beds, outdoor showers, a sundeck, and zippered doors and windows. Each tent includes a refrigerated private bar, a computer hookup, and a telephone, along with all the other amenities expected at a Four Seasons property.
The property offers a hands-on elephant experience, jungle treks, bird-watching, mountain biking, Mekong River excursions, and other activities as well as massage and spa treatments.