Every year, the incentive industry's major show gets bigger and better. This year's Motivation Show, held September 26 to 28 at Chicago's McCormick Place Convention Center, saw 13,467 registrants, compared to 13,153 in 2005.

The number of associated events grows each year as well, and this year included the first national conference on People Performance Management, presented by the Forum for People Performance Management and Measurement at Northwestern University and co-sponsored by Corporate Meetings & Incentives. In the opening session September 27, Bruce Fields, vice president of human resources at industrial materials manufacturer Nordson, Westlake, Ohio, accepted the esteemed Performance Through People Award, which in previous years has gone to companies such as Marriott and Dell. In another session, Steve Kent, senior equity analyst for Goldman Sachs, New York, confirmed the importance of motivated employees to investors (his client companies include Starbucks, Four Seasons, Marriott, and MGM). “There are many reasons why these companies are doing so well,” he said, “but the performance of their people has to be a factor.”

A few examples Kent used:

  • At Starbucks, training is all about corporate culture, until late the first day. “Only then do they start to talk about the basic things you need to know to do the job, like how to use a cash register.”

  • MGM Mirage in Las Vegas offers employees a buffet just like the one for guests. “How can we feed our employees anything less than what we feed the people who stay here?” is the philosophy.

  • Four Seasons and Marriott pay for English classes for every employee, including dishwashers. Why? The companies promote from within and consider the training to be both a perk and an investment.

Following are other highlights from the show:

Great Britain:
Look Beyond London

The big news in Britain is not in London but Liverpool, said Tom Wright, chief executive of Visit Britain. The city is coming into vogue, not only for its Beatles connection but for its culture: It's been named Europe's 2008 Capital of Culture and boasts one of the biggest art collections outside London. In May 2007, low-cost carrier Globespan will fly direct to John Lennon Airport in Liverpool from John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. And it's only 2.5 hours from London via high-speed rail. www.visitbritain.org

Orlando's New Beauty:
Rosen Shingle Creek

Meeting news coming out of Orlando includes the opening of Rosen Shingle Creek, set amid the backdrop of the Florida Everglades' headwaters. What is so amazing about the property are the oak canopies and natural flowers that have carefully been preserved so they can continue to reside there. But for meeting planners, what will also capture the eye is the 445,000 square feet of dedicated, state-of-the-art meeting space, including one of the nation's largest column-free ballrooms at 95,000 square feet. Other amenities: a 13,000-square-foot spa with nine treatment rooms, a fitness center, and four outdoor swimming pools. www.rosenshinglecreek.com

Time to
Re-Think Peru

With all the competition from other Central and South American destinations, Peru nonetheless took the spotlight at the show for its efforts to attract the U.S incentive market. “You can call Peru an emerging destination,” said Elizabeth Hakim, incoming tourism coordinator for Prom Peru, because it meets all the criteria for winners who “have traveled, are educated, interested, and discerning.” She is seeing more incentive business, especially through an affiliation with StarCite, a meeting technology and site-sourcing company that also offers a destination marketing arm. And with only a five-hour flight from Miami and some of the most hospitable residents in the region — not to mention Machu Picchu — Peru is a huge draw for the “been there, done that” set. www.peru.info

Alan Waxler Group:
More than Ground Services

The company that introduced limo-coaches and top-quality meet-and-greet group services to Las Vegas meetings will soon take delivery of the first motor coaches made in China (with American parts) for the U.S. market. The Alan Waxler Group's AWG Charter Services offers a diverse fleet of luxury vehicles and service to match. “We are the only transportation company in Las Vegas with the full spectrum of vehicle types … from our luxurious fleet of European sedans to our Signature Series 2006-2007 56-passenger executive motor coaches,” says founder Alan Waxler. But the 12-passenger limo-coaches offer corporate groups the highest level of quality and comfort at an affordable price. “The U-shape environment in the limo-style coaches allows networking as soon as the group leaves the airport. Some clients will even do a video message from a company executive and loop it on the video,” he adds.

The meet-and-greet services are offered through AWG Destination Services, which has been recognized by Special Events Magazine (a sister magazine of Corporate Meetings & Incentives) as one of the top 25 destination management companies in the world. AWG also offers a Corporate Events division as well as a licensed full-service modeling agency. www.awaxgrp.com

Hilton Los Cabos Resort:
Major Re-Do

The Hilton Los Cabos Beach & Golf Resort is undergoing a major remodeling of its 375 guest rooms, which will be completed in December, in time for high season. Now under the ownership of Beny Alagem, who also owns the Beverly Hilton, the Hilton has repositioned itself as a luxury resort, having poured $2 million into the property in the past two years, according to Gabriela van der Lee, senior sales manager.

The oceanfront Hilton Los Cabos, which offers two ballrooms (both wireless) and five terraces among its outdoor venues, won the 2005 “Connie Award” for best overall performance among the 240 properties in the Hilton Hotels Corp. Resort Division.

The resort offers four oceanview restaurants, two swimming pools, and a full-service spa and fitness center. www.hiltonloscabos.com

Dollar-Guaranteed Packages

Monaco's hotels have agreed to extend dollar-guaranteed incentive packages through 2008, announced Cindy Hoddeson, North American director of meeting and incentive sales, Monaco Government Tourist Office in New York. The offer underscores Monaco's affordability factor in the U.S. market. Packages include four- to five-night accommodations, as well as daily breakfast and welcome and farewell dinners.

A new incentive package guide includes a sample itinerary, Monaco's main selling points, and information about the online catalog with exclusive corporate gifts.

Participating hotels include SBM hotels, Hotel de Paris, Hotel Hermitage, Monte-Carlo Bay Hotel & Resorts, Hotel Mirabeau, Monte-Carlo Beach Hotel; Fairmont Monte Carlo, Port Palace, Hotel Metropole Monte-Carlo, Le Meridien Beach Plaza, and the Columbus Monaco. www.visitmonaco.com

Showstoppers at
Australia Booth

The Australian Tourist Commission (see photo, next page) announced a “challenge for the incentive industry” at the show that will encourage America's corporate executives to engage their employees in decision-making about which destinations motivate them. In a recent survey of end-user incentive winners, “the most important take-out is that the right travel opportunities are increasingly valuable to time-poor workers,” said Michelle Gysberts, partnership director. “Countries where employees have yet to travel, or trips they viewed as too difficult to organize as well as experiences like beach holidays and food and wine events, topped the list.”

Palace Resorts:
Full Speed Ahead

Palace Resorts, the largest all-inclusive chain in Mexico, has introduced several new properties and reopened others in the last year. Newest among them is Le Blanc Spa Resort, a five-star, adults-only, 260-suite property in Cancun, featuring 10,000 square feet of meeting space and a 29,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art spa. (President Bush stayed in the property's presidential suite for the Mexican Summit earlier this year.)

Also earlier this year, Palace Resorts acquired the 300-room Club Maeva Tulum in the Riviera Maya region. The resort will close for a renovation and upgrade in August 2007, to reopen under a new, yet-to-be determined name. The opening date has not been set.

In May, Palace Resorts opened Cozumel Palace, an all-suite oceanfront hotel on the island of Cozumel, home to part of the second-largest coral reef in the world. Formerly the Hotel Plaza Las Glorias Cozumel, the property now includes 176 suites (each with double Jacuzzis), as well as renovated lobby, pool, and common areas.

In June, Palace Resorts announced the grand reopening of Xpu-Ha Palace, an eco-centered resort in the Riviera Maya region that had been closed since July 2005 for repairs after sustaining damage in hurricanes Emily and Wilma. The resort features 144 rooms in bungalow-style buildings with thatched roofs and luxurious interiors.

Incentive planners are eagerly anticipating the opening of the Moon Palace Casino, Golf and Spa Resort, Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. The first phase is scheduled to open in July 2007, and the second by December 2007, although groups will be welcome beginning in January 2008, says Ginny Davito, vice president, group and incentive sales. “Groups are anxious for another large, all-inclusive property that offers the same value as the Moon Palace and Aventura Palace.”

There's a completely new room product at the Moon Palace in Cancun, and another wing, with 1,350 rooms, will open by the end of 2007, as will another 18-hole Jack Nicklaus golf course. www.palaceresorts.com

JetBlue Launches
Service to Aruba

JetBlue Airways, New York's low-fare airline, began daily Airbus A320 service to Aruba September 15 from John F. Kennedy International Airport. The island is investing more than $34 million in improvements and expansions at Queen Beatrix International Airport (www.airportaruba.com). The airport's growth plan includes the installation of elevators to make the facility more accessible for disabled travelers, the addition of a new central security area, updated signage, free luggage carts, and more.

Nearly every hotel in Aruba is investing in refurbishments or expansions, including the much-anticipated, $5.2 million Larimar Spa at the Radisson Aruba Resort & Casino, which opened last month. In addition, the Aruba Marriott Resort and Stellaris Casino completed a ballroom and casino expansion in 2005, invested $3.4 million in a room renovation in late spring, and will spend another $12 million renovating rooms in 2007.

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