Baby, It's Cold Outside
Don't Laugh:This is one cool activity that you can plan for up to 30 guests outside Geneva. After some warming fondue, winners can choose an open-air Jacuzzi soak or head straight for their cozy sleeping bags. With many of its incentive activities, says Renato Grieco, regional director of sales, Ovation Global, “Switzerland is trying to show the traditional in a modern way.” After breakfast, send your guests back to their regular lodging via dogsled — or, for groups that crave more physical activity, by snowshoes.
London Style at Famous Berkley
When the latest collections hit the catwalks in London, a selection of fashionable sweets and savories hits the menu for Prêt-à-Portea, afternoon tea for the fashionista at The Berkeley in London. For spring/summer 2008, The Berkeley menu featured such highlights as the Chanel lime green tea cake clutch handbag and a Christian Dior pink chocolate bikini biscuit, created by pastry chefs who attend London Fashion Week to get their inspiration. Groups of up to eight guests can be accommodated during the regular tea service, or reserve a private room for 18 guests. The Berkeley has 214 individually decorated rooms and can accommodate groups of 400 for receptions or 220 for banquets. The property also features the exclusive rooftop see-and-be-seen Berkeley Pool and Spa.
Drink and Dine in Scottland's Oldest Distillery
A brook tumbles by where smugglers once set up illicit stills, while stunning Perthshire countryside rolls away into the hills. And inside Glenturret, Scotland's oldest distillery, your incentive attendees are taking a private tour of the original operation and learning about the entire process of producing malt whiskey, from the milling of the barley, through malting and fermentation, to the actual distillation. They're also sampling drams of the modern brands, Glenturret and Famous Grouse, before moving on to a private dining room. The distillery, a one-hour drive from Edinburgh, caters banquets for up to 275 guests.
The Secret Sides of Paris
Show your winners another side of Paris — in style, of course: They can discover hidden charms of the City of Light while riding in the back seat of a Citroën 2CV on a custom-tailored trip over Paris' cobblestoned back streets.
InterContinental Paris Le Grand teams up with tour company 4 Roues Sous 1 Parapluie (also the affectionate nickname for the vintage classic Citroën, which, with its convertible canvas top and squat profile, looks a bit like “four wheels under one umbrella”). The company offers several tours, including Secret Paris (how about a stop at Arènes de Ludèce, an excavated, first-century Roman amphitheater in a quiet section of the Latin Quarter?); Paris Outskirts, taking a look outside the city limits; and for first-time visitors, the Eternal Paris tour, with an upclose look at some of Paris' most famous sites and monuments, from hilltop Montmartre to the Champs-Élysées to the Eiffel Tower. The company will also customize tours to your qualifiers' interests.
Multilingual chauffeur guides, well-versed in the history of Paris, keep up an entertaining travelogue from the driver's seat while guests settle into the plush, velvety back seat and enjoy the ride. Combine the journey with a morning brunch in St.-Germain-de-Prés, a picnic in one of the city's gardens, or a dip into authentic French cuisine at a historic brasserie for the full package.
Scenic Killarney: Be Part of It
Pluck your stressed-out winners from their busy lives and plunk them down in the middle of Killarney National Park in Country Kerry, Ireland. The Brehon, a luxury 125-room hotel that takes its name from ancient laws requiring that hospitality be offered to strangers, sits ready to welcome them with fresh air and a fresh perspective. For an excursion that allows them to truly appreciate their varied surroundings, send them off in the morning in vintage cars to nearby Kate Kearney's Cottage, formerly “a den of ill repute,” but now a country pub. Attendees will enjoy an Irish coffee while being matched with ponies for a trek over the mountain pass known as The Gap of Dunloe. Or they may choose to cross the pass by jaunting car (horse-drawn carriage), while a local guide shares the legends of the dramatic landscape, formed when glaciers from the north met the mountains of Kerry 20,000 years ago. A midday arrival at Lord Brandon's Cottage finds The Brehon staff ready and waiting to serve a barbecue lunch. After that, it's down the valley as attendees travel by boat through a string of three lakes on their way to a castle visit and transfer back to The Brehorn, at this point a mere five minutes away. The full-day excursion is one of many ways to see and enjoy Killarney (half-day options also available).
Live Like Royalty
When William Lobkowicz, CEO and owner of Lobkowicz Events Management in Prague, takes groups to see the historic castles and cultural treasures of the Czech Republic, it's a thoroughly personal experience. He's a direct descendent of the ruling monarchial Lobkowicz family of the Czech nation.
Showcasing his family history is a right for which Lobkowicz fought long and hard. When his grandfather fled Central Europe to escape the Nazis in the 1930s, he left behind the family's castles, art, and other possessions, which were confiscated by the Nazis and then the Communists.
In 1989, when Czechoslovakia became a free republic, Lobkowicz was living in a suburb of Boston. It took him almost a decade — and four lawyers — to reclaim his family's property. He relocated to Prague and now owns 10 castles, including Nelahozeves Castle and Lobkowicz Palace, as well as a winery, a brewery, numerous works of art, and other treasures.
The Czech prince's destination management company books corporate groups at the castles to help pay for their upkeep. Nelahozeves Castle and Lobkowicz Palace can host groups of 30 to 600 people. Lodging is not available, but catering facilities are located on site, and companies have used them for group events such as a recreation of a Renaissance festival where sword fighters, falconers, and tarot-card readers help to set the 16th-century scene, and attendees can try their hands at archery, candle dipping, and iron forging.
Journey to the Center of the Green World
The Oresund region, an area that encompasses Copenhagen in Denmark and Malmö in Sweden, is rich with incentive-quality experiences while setting the standard for green living. A city where every third person bikes to work and 10 percent of power is supplied by windmills, Copenhagen will play host to the United Nations Climate Change Conference in 2009. Things are even greener over the graceful bridge to Malmö, named the fourth-greenest city in the world by hip environmental Web site grist.org. (Copenhagen is No. 6.) And Scandinavian Airlines has set a goal of reducing carbon emissions by 20 percent between now and 2020. Incentive-quality properties in Copenhagen include the completely renovated and renamed Le Méridien Palace Hotel, now part of the Starwood family. The 161-room hotel is set in the heart of the city, within walking distance of Tivoli Gardens and Strøget, the city's famous pedestrian shopping street. Other top-notch options are Hotel D'Angleterre, with 123 rooms; the super-trendy Front, with 133 rooms; and the Kong Frederick, with 111 rooms, all NP Hotels.
Gold Diggers: The Yukon Awaits
Take a 2.5-hour flight from Vancouver and land in the historic town of Whitehorse, on the Yukon River, in the midst of stunning mountain scenery. Farther north you'll find Dawson City, heart of the 1898 Klondike Gold Rush, a World Heritage Site with a “Go for the Gold” incentive theme built right into its history. “The best part,” says Michele Saran, director, incentive sales development, for the Canadian Tourism Commission, is that “nothing in that area is contrived. You've got wooden boardwalks and ice streets. It's where Jack London wrote The Call of the Wild. Once everyone's done the tried-and-true incentive destinations, this is something that can give qualifiers real bragging rights.” Add rustic but well-appointed lodges, First Nation ceremonies, saloons complete with can-can dancers, the Northern Lights, and the chance to pan for gold, and you can build an itinerary with a surprise around every corner.
Rock and Roll Fantasy
Who hasn't had the dream of playing in a band? Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy Camp, an organization that brings together amateur musicians of all levels with professional rockers, will provide an abbreviated corporate version of the camp for up to 250 winners. And what better location than a music studio in Los Angeles? At an event for top producers and employees of Legend Numismatics, a rare-coin company, attendees met musicians — including Clem Burke of Blondie and Jane Wiedlin of The Go-Go's — over cocktails and dinner, and some got up on stage to perform with the stars. “The buzz and the exhilaration the event created was phenomenal,” says Laura Sperber, co-president of Legend Numismatics, adding that the value was not only the “wow” factor, but also the bonds that participants established with the rock stars and with each other.