Island incentives have proven successful in the past for Dave Olson, vice president of sales for Intermountain Health Care Health Plans, so this spring the Salt Lake City, UTbased meeting executive turned once again to St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands. For seven nights in early March, the group of 60 participants and spouses stayed at the 290-room Renaissance Grand Beach Resort.
"It turned out better than I could have anticipated," says Olson. "We made a day trip on catamarans to the island of Jost Van Dyke [in the British Virgin Islands]. People will be talking about that trip for many years. It was fantastic." Olson's group also took advantage of St. Thomas's golf course, as well as duty-free shopping in the town of Charlotte Amalie.
Olson, who has taken incentive groups to St. Thomas on several other occasions, says, "We still find the island intriguing. St. Thomas has done a marvelous job getting the island back after Hurricane Marilyn."
For five years, Jacksonville, FLbased Manning Building Supplies has motivated its top building contractors with incentive trips to sun-and-fun destinations. The challenge for Lou Hannah, director of incentive sales, Travel Group, Greenville, SC, who planned the company's March 1997 reward trip for 170 persons, was to add a new dimension to the formula.
Hannah's solution was the Sonesta Beach Resort & Casino in Curacao. "The resort had all the basics: wonderful weather, a gorgeous beach, and luxurious amenities," says Hannah. "But its location, just 35 miles off the coast of Venezuela, plus the Dutch, Spanish, and African influences on the island, gave it an exotic flavor, which our group loved." She spotlighted curacao's rich cuisine, music, and cultural offerings at a welcome reception and dinner at the historic Fort Nassau on the island.
"Another plus was that the resort was so user friendly," says Hannah. "Our people ranged in age from their late 20s to early 60s, so we needed a property that would accommodate a wide range of interests and activity levels." Those who wanted to stay on site could snorkel right off the Sonesta's beach or use the pool, hot tubs, and fitness center. Groups who wanted to venture farther had 12 jeeps at their disposal to explore the island or shop in Willemstad.
The resort's Emerald Casino was a big hit with everyone. "For the group's farewell dinner, the Sonesta staff staged a spectacular carnival event around the pool, complete with brass bands, dancers in full carnival dress, roast pig and elaborate desserts, and a huge fireworks display," says Hannah. "It was a perfect way to end a great, great trip."