THE GOAL OF AN INCENTIVE TRIP is to create an experience that winners couldn't have on their own — no matter how wealthy or well-traveled they are. These six adventures — from a private Mardi Gras to a day with a horse whisperer — do exactly that.
- Taking It to the Streets
What better way to show your winners that they're the star attraction than by holding a Mardi Gras just for them? Participants can assemble in the lobby of the hotel, grab a hurricane drink or two in a go-cup, mingle with costumed Mardi Gras characters, and load up on beads. Then strike up the Storyville Stompers jazz band and take them for a strut down Bourbon Street, where tourists will throng to snap their pictures and onlookers will beg for beads. Confetti flutters overhead, the master of ceremonies cavorts, and the paraders become the highlight of many a home video. It's a great way to lead into an off-site reception or dinner — or it can be an event in itself. Contact BBC: Bonnie Boyd & Co., (504) 523-9700; email@example.com; www.bbcdmc.com.
— Sue Pelletier
- Move Over, Tarzan
Golf courses aren't the only place for swinging — some of Penn Mutual Life Insurance Co.'s frontline field managers took to cables to fly through the canopy of Mexico's tropical forests last February during a trip to Puerto Vallarta. Leanne Acton, CMM, director, conference planning/travel services for the Horsham, Pa.-based company, had no qualms about sending her attendees — and even her company chairman — swinging high. “The guides were very professional and very safety-conscious,” Acton says of the Canopy Tour, run by Vallarta Adventures and arranged through Ana Corona fromTropical Incentives.
Guides help participants sail from tree to tree and platform to platform on a network of pulleys and horizontal cables mounted between 10 feet and 70 feet above the ground of the tropical forest. The highlight at the end is rappelling from a platform placed two stories high.
“It was so neat for our group,” says Acton. “We went back to the reception that evening, and we were all so aglow from the experience, exchanging stories with each other and the people who had gone on the canopy tour the day before. The other people who played golf were saying, ‘Oh man, we should have done that!’” Contact Tropical Incentives, (998) 884-4826; www.tropicalincentives.com.mx.
— Sue Pelletier
- Scramble for Scrabble
The tension builds as a helicopter circles slowly overhead. From their vantage point on one of the world's most beautiful beaches, your top producers gaze skyward to follow its progress. Suddenly, a storm of brightly colored tennis balls — each marked with a letter of the alphabet — bursts from the heavens. Participants scramble across the powdery white sand and dive into gin-clear water in a mad dash to collect as many balls as possible. So begins a rip-roaring round of beach Scrabble. Magen's Bay on the island of St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands is the setting for this tropical firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com; www.tropictours-virginislands.com., which never leaves participants at a loss for words. Contact Tropic Tours, (800) 524-4334;
— Lisa Matte
- Life's a Beach
Building castles in the sand may seem like child's play, but it takes on a whole new meaning under the enthusiastic direction of Sarasota, Fla.-based Team Sandtastic. Their sand-sculpting programs are designed to stimulate creativity, enhance camaraderie, and challenge established notions of corporate rank-and-file. Award-winning sand sculptor Mark Mason and his group of instructors supervise as teams race to complete assignments ranging from creating a likeness of the company CEO to carving an entire village. Each one- to four-hour seminar begins with an introduction to sand sculpting, including an overview of the skills necessary to complete specific assignments. Then the race begins. Team Sandtastic provides the sculpting tools. Your producers contribute the energy and creativity that turns a day at the beach into an activity to remember. Contact Team Sandtastic, (941) 359-0868; www.teamsandtastic.com.
— Lisa Matte
- Sunset Over St. Peter's
When in Rome, do what so few Romans know to do — have a twilight reception on the rooftop garden of Les Étoiles restaurant in the Atlante Star Rome hotel. Just imagine a gentle breeze caressing the petals of the lush flowers that rim the garden, the blooms glowing in the last light of the sun as it sinks behind St. Peter's basilica and the full moon rises over the ancient spires of one of the world's most romantic cities. For a closer look at the Vatican or other nearby monuments, three telescopes are arranged along the rooftop's edge, and your producers can zoom in on just about anything in the garden's 360-degree view. Throw in some hors d'oeuvres and Italy's famous fine wines to complement the panorama, then head downstairs for some of Rome's best cuisine, and they'll definitely have an evening to remember. Contact Hotel Atlante Star, tel. 39 0066873233; www.atlantehotels.com.
— Sue Pelletier
- Horse Sense
There's something mystical about the age-old art of horse whispering, of quietly communicating with a strong-willed animal in a way that leads to a mutually trusting partnership. Accurate listening, communicating, understanding, and developing a positive relationship, all come into play. If you want to help your top producers apply those principles to life and work, The Maui Horse Whisperer Experience will teach them how. Developed by horseman and trainer Franklin Levinson in conjunction with psychologist Lee Jampolsky, the program, on Levinson's private ranch overlooking the cliffs of Maui's north shore, lasts a half or a full day. Contact Maui Horse Whisperer Experience, (808) 572-6211; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.wayofthehorse.org.
— Lisa Matte