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Queenstown, New Zealand, was the site of a Crystal Award-winning incentive travel program.

Ingenious Incentives: Honoring the Best in Reward-Travel Experiences

This year's SITE Crystal Award winners created unforgettable events while connecting with the goals of the host organization.

Warning: Reading through the profiles of the 2024 Crystal Award winners can lead to a case of I-wish-I’d-planned-that, I-wish-I’d-thought-of that, or I-wish-I-had-the-budget-for-that professional jealousy.

The annual awards program run by the Society for Incentive Travel Excellence recognizes outstanding recognition events in a variety of geographic and solution-driven categories. We’ve pulled out some of the details from four of the winning incentive programs. No doubt all of them have inspired qualifiers and non-qualifiers alike to push harder to ensure that they’re part of the next one.

Best Destination-Based Experiential Incentive Travel Program
Portugal Travel Team
Top achievers for financial services firm Canaccord Genuity traveled to Lisbon (below) for the company’s Chairman’s Council event in May 2023, timing it to overlap with a championship soccer match. Portugal Travel Team arranged for the group to attend the high-energy final, which was made even more special with personalized jerseys for attendees and a pre-game rooftop meet-up with the club’s mascot, a live eagle. Lisbon.jpg

Another surprise during for Canaccord was a flash-mob opera performance, which tied in with the CEO’s passion for opera. For the first part of the evening, the singers were incognito, serving food and drink to the group, and then surprised everyone with their performance.

Excellence in Incentive Travel: Africa & Middle East
Arabian Adventures Meetings, Incentives & Events
For an adventurous group from a French energy company, the program participants were brought to three emirates in the UAE: Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Ras Al Khaimah. With the goals of showcasing both modernity and tradition, as well making connections to nature, the trip was filled with contrasts. In Abu Dhabi, the group explored the Louvre Museum collaboration and the Grand Mosque (below) as well as the winding waterways of the Eastern Mangroves. In Dubai, they visited ancient souks as well as the modern city. And in Ras Al Khaimah, tGrand_Mosque.jpghey traveled to see the dramatic Jebel Jais, the highest mountain in the UAE.

Excellence in Incentive Travel: North America
Tired, graduation-like awards presentations, with winners parading across the stage for their photo op, was not what Marriott International had in mind for its top performers in the U.S. and Canada, and Haute stepped up to rethink the awards dinner. A highlight of Marriott’s “Constellation of Wonder” incentive program at a Ritz-Carlton property in Arizona, the gala evening spotlighted top achievers by sorting them into six groups. Each was recognized by a performance of a custom-arranged song specific to that group plus a video that highlighted specific achievements and accomplishments.

Excellence in Incentive Travel: Asia-Pacific
Synergy Effect
For an Oceania-based building company’s Pinnacle Club incentive program, a buyout of the host hotel in Queenstown, New Zealand, allowed it to be customized as “Pinnacle Lodge.” In addition to Synergy’s lineup of helicopter rides, jet-boat jaunts, and celebratory dinners, attendees were also rewarded with “personal empowerment sessions,” which are opportunities to support one another around upcoming business challenges. Additionally, Synergy also created a home-building showcase that allowed participants to see company products being used on work sites around the city.

While all the winning event profiles can be read in full here, the award for Most Creative Solution Deployed to Overcome Adversity is worth special note. In September 2022, Spectra DMC was in its pre-con meeting for an 80-guest incentive in London for an American company when the news broke that Queen Elizabeth II had died. Suddenly, many of the event venues and activities needed to be changed, including a farewell evening planned at Kensington Palace. While event planners’ ability to adapt to changing circumstances is regularly tested, this was a true test of problem-solving and professionalism.

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