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Ideas from Award-Winning Incentive-Travel Programs

With its Crystal Awards, the Society for Incentive Travel Excellence recognized incentive houses that exceeded clients’ goals through creative programming and experiences. Here are a few examples.

During February’s SITE Global Conference in New York, the Society for Incentive Travel Excellence presented Crystal Awards for Excellence to seven incentive houses that organized reward travel for top performers. The two most common characteristics of the winning programs: infusing local culture into the program in memorable ways and creating lasting connections between winners from different offices.

For example, Amstar DMC’s program in Costa Rica for 125 health-insurance agents brought that nation’s culture into participants’ homes ahead of the trip. Pre-arrival programming included delivery of a hand-crafted pottery piece to each winner’s home. Later that week, participants joined a virtual cooking class to learn how to use the piece and cook a signature Costa Rican meal.

Once the group arrived in Costa Rica, Amstar immersed the group in local culture. It tapped family-owned businesses to bring an opening outdoor garden party to life, with local artists designing a unique backdrop using all-natural glow-in-the-dark paint. And on the final night, Amstar also used its network to create an on-site rainforest reception. Foliage was brought in from a sustainable botanical garden along with a Grammy-award-winning Costa Rican band. Artisans were also invited to sell their products, allowing winners to help the local tourism industry bounce back after the Covid pandemic.

Another award winner, Motivation Excellence, helped Farm Bureau Insurance of Michigan impress both first-time and repeat qualifiers with an Ireland and United Kingdom itinerary. With meals atop London’s Tower Bridge and inside Kensington Palace; a takeover of the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin; and two days meandering County Kerry’s coastal villages, the hosts delivered experiences that connected participants. The result: 98 percent of winners said they made valuable new friendships or learned something from colleagues that would help them in their work.

In Africa, a region of the world that’s growing its incentive opportunities, Access Holidays & Events helped a software firm build loyalty as it rewarded its top performers. Marrakesh, Morocco, was the site of the program, and Access incorporated elements of Moroccan culture through activities such as a treasure hunt through an ancient medina, workshops on perfume and calligraphy, and a unique dinner in the Agafay Desert.

And to cement the team culture while leaving a legacy in the destination, winners worked together to build a new playground in a local orphan village. Some of the village residents then joined the group for a cooking class with a top Moroccan chef. Participants found the activity to be “a magical experience” and “a great gesture toward humanity.”

Read the case studies of all the Crystal Award-winning programs here.

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