Attendance at the 2008 Motivation Show, held September 23-25 at Chicago's McCormick Place, reflected the jitters the entire nation was feeling over the failure of some of the country's largest financial institutions. Exhibitors gave the show mixed reviews, some doubting whether they would be back in 2009, others appreciating the quality of registrants who visited the hundreds of travel and merchandise booths. Overall, exhibit space was down 10 percent from 2007, according to Pete Erickson, managing director, Hall-Erickson Inc.
Here are reports from our editors on what was new and noteworthy in some destinations worldwide:
Monaco: See You This Winter
To most, Monte Carlo means elegance, luxury, glamour — and the beach. But in fact, notes Cindy Hoddeson, director of meeting and incentive sales for the Monaco Government Tourist Office, the principality first gained fame as a winter resort in the late 1800s. Now she wants to remind meeting managers that the winter months offer great weather, rich cultural options, and good deals.
Some major renovation projects are wrapping up, she adds, including the final stage of work at the Fairmont Monte Carlo, which opens a Willow Stream Spa next spring. This past summer, the Société des Bains de Mer company rebranded as Monte Carlo SBM, operator of some of the principality's best-loved properties and venues. One of these, the Monte-Carlo Beach Hotel, closed its doors in September and will reopen in May 2009 after a renovation that will decrease room count from 47 to 40 rooms and suites. Responding to the needs of meeting clients, Monte Carlo SBM is adding a conference room for 500 guests along with six breakout rooms at Hôtel Hermitage, as well as renovating all rooms in the hotel's Costa and Midi wings. The rooms will be completed by May 2010 while the meeting space will open in May 2011. Monte-Carlo SBM's latest offering is Moods, a live-music venue that can hold up to 200 guests.
With the dollar gaining slightly on the euro at press time, consider taking advantage of Monaco's U.S. dollar-guarantee packages, which extend through 2010.
Palace Resorts: The Era of the All-Inclusive?
With Wall Street turmoil translating into major budget uncertainty for incentive travel planners, all-inclusive resorts are poised to make a big splash in the market. “In the beginning, all-inclusives were seen as purely vacation properties,” says Ginny Davito, vice president, group and incentive sales, Palace Resorts. “The meeting and incentive market couldn't see it working for their segment.”
Palace Resorts has worked diligently and successfully to change the perception — and the reality. Furthermore, Davito says, “in a tough economy, people like to know what their budget is. We don't have a surcharge for private functions. The rate is the rate. It includes your room tax, gratuities, food and beverage, and we allow meeting planners to have as many private functions as they want. Want to extend your coffee break? You can. There's no extra cost.”
The latest key additions to the all-inclusive pricing: wireless access and long-distance phone calls to the U.S. and Canada.
Palace Resorts operates 11 properties throughout Cancun, the Riviera Maya, Isla Mujeres, and Cozumel in Mexico, and in January it will open its 12th location — the 1,791-room Moon Palace Casino, Golf, & Spa Resort in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.
Jamaica: The First Solis to Open in '09
In March, Solis — a brand started by The Ritz-Carlton Co.'s legendary Horst Schulze — makes its Western Hemisphere debut in the Rose Hall area of Jamaica as the 229-unit Solis Palmyra Resort & Spa. There are only two other Solis hotels, one in Switzerland and one in Ireland. Others are planned for locations as diverse as Sunny Isles, Fla., and Zala Springs, Hungary.
The brand represents relaxed luxury, says Juan Ortega, director of sales andfor Palmyra. Situated next to The Ritz-Calrton, Rose Hall, The Palmyra is part of a five-year plan known as Celebration Jamaica that includes two more hotels, shopping, restaurants, and a convention center. In addition, Palmyra is in final approval stages for a casino, which would be the first on the island.
London: Gearing Up for the Olympics
With the closing ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics in August, attention turned to London, which is gearing up to host the next Summer Olympics, July 27 to August 12, 2012. The preparations can only strengthen the U.K. capital's efforts to host meetings, incentives, and events, says Chris F. J. Lynn, sales and marketing director North America & Long Haul for Visit London. “London's business tourism industry is already seeing benefits. The overall mind-set of the London stakeholders seems to have changed — the hotels, transport, venues, and production agencies are all working together. There is an even greater understanding and willingness to work with and deliver events for large groups coming to London. This will be a fantastic legacy for London's event industry.”
Among the city's initiatives:
The creation of the 2012 UK Events Industry Fair Pricing and Practice Charter
The introduction of a citywide accommodation charter involving all major hotel groups
An increase in hotel rooms from 100,000 to 120,000 by 2012. New hotels are being added to London's already plentiful hotel base, including the Westminster Bridge Park Plaza, the new Hilton at Wembley, and the Renaissance at St. Pancras Chambers.
At The Motivation Show, Visit London introduced a guide called “Tasty Reasons to Organize Events in London,” which includes a food-related events calendar and a “gourmet map” of London, highlighting areas of the capital offering different ethnic cuisines. And the new InterContinental London Park Lane has opened the Cookbook Café, a venue for aspiring chefs and sommeliers, where guests can enjoy wine tastings, cooking demonstrations, and talks with visiting chefs.
Canada: More Than Moose and Mounties
As Vancouver readies its infrastructure for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, the spotlight will hit Canada as a destination, says Susan Frei, director, insurance market development, Canadian Tourism Commission. “We're not all about moose and Mounties anymore,” she says. Among the new buzz words: organic, fresh, green, and clean. “Canada has always been known for its healthy lifestyle,” says Frei, “and we're becoming known for our food and wine as well.”
The economy in Canada is relatively strong, but hotels “are negotiating and ready to deal,” for U.S.-based incentive programs, says Frei. Planners will want to check out a new Web tool called Canada Explorer at the CTC site (www.corporate.canada.travel/en/ca/index.html), which can help reveal what kind of “explorers” their qualifiers are, says Frei.
USVI: New and Luxe
With tourism investments of more than $500 million, the U.S. Virgin Islands of St. Croix, St John, and St. Thomas are ready to welcome incentive groups with new and renovated luxury resorts.
The hot news from St. Thomas, says Kay Milliner, regional manager, Atlanta, for the U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Tourism, is the ultraluxe Jumeirah Botany Bay Resort — a 400-acre, 84-room boutique hotel set to open in 2011. Also on St. Thomas, the Caram-bola Beach resort is completing a $20 million renovation and expansion to become a Renaissance Hotel. Other renovations: The Ritz-Carlton ($40 million) and Frenchman's Reef and Morning Star Marriott Beach ($25 million).
On St. Croix, the buzz is about the 400-room Wyndham St. Croix Golf Resort and Casino, set to open in 2010 in a $250 million complex that will include a 43,000-square-foot conference center.
Milliner notes that American travelers do not need passports for entry, and airlift to the islands will increase when Delta adds service to St. Thomas out of Atlanta and New York's JFK this winter.
St. Thomas is also a popular cruise destination, with a new $28 million shopping center at the Crown Bay pier. In 2009, Royal Caribbean and Disney will be adding St. Croix to their ports of call.
Hilton Los Cabos: A New Look
Gleaming from a $15 million renovation that has updated guest rooms, renovated the Spa Oasis, and added swim-up taco and sushi bars, the Hilton Los Cabos Beach & Golf Resort next will invest millions to renovate the resort's pool areas and meeting spaces. The work is part of an effort to reposition the property to join Hilton's top-tier Waldorf-Astoria collection, according to General Manager Lee Chipman. The hotel offers 375 oceanfront rooms and 11,349 square feet of meeting space.
Among the research released from various incentive industry associations at this year's Motivation Show:
An Incentive Research Foundation survey of 80 corporate incentive buyers, incentive firms, and suppliers explored the effects of the down economy on incentives. Among the findings: Companies most frequently compensate for smaller budgets by cutting the total number of qualifiers and length of stay and choosing domestic rather than international destinations. For more, visit www.theirf.org.
The Incentive Performance Center released a white paper entitled “Why Incentive Programs Endure Recessions,” which notes that companies often cut advertising in tough economic conditions but keep their incentive programs.
The Forum for People Performance Management and Measurement at Northwestern University introduced a “workforce measurement model” that shows the contribution of a company's people and talent to its bottom line. Visit www.performanceforum.org.