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 powdery white sand and dive into gin-clear water in a mad dash to collect as many lettered 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 that never leaves participants at a loss for words. Contact Tropic Tours, (800) 524-4334; firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com; www.tropictours-virginislands.com. —Lisa Matte
Let’s Get Rolling
Producers can learn the fine art of cigar rolling in a setting fit for royalty at The Graycliff Inn, Nassau, Bahamas. Set in a Georgian-style mansion built in 1740, the inn has hosted such luminaries as Princess Caroline of Monaco, King Constantine of Greece, and Sir Winston Churchill.
An ardent cigar aficionado, owner Enrico Garzaroli recruited master cigar roller Avelino Lara to head up the inn’s on-site Graycliff Cigar Co. Lara, who created Cuba’s famed Cohiba Cigar, was once Fidel Castro’s personal cigar roller. His staff leads participants through the process of creating a perfect cigar, and they are awarded a certificate of achievement signed by Lara. Contact Graycliff Inn and Cigar Co., (800) 688-0076; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://graycliffbahamas.com. —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 skills necessary to complete specific assignments. Then the race begins. Team Sandtastic provides the sand 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; Mark@TeamSandtastic.com; www.teamsandtastic.com. —Lisa Matte
Taking It to the Streets
Most producers love being the center of attention. And what better way to show them they’re the star attraction than by holding a parade just for them? If you’re in New Orleans, laissez les bon temps rouler with a big wing-ding of a mini-Mardi Gras. 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
Sunset Over St. Peters
When in Rome, do what so few Romans know to do—have a twilight reception on the rooftop garden of the Les Etoiles 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, there are three telescopes arranged along the rooftop’s edge, where 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
There’s something almost 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 and understanding, and developing a positive relationship all come into play. If you want to help your top producers apply those same principles to life and work, The Maui Horse Whisperer Experience will teach them to do just that. Developed by horseman and trainer Franklin Levinson in conjunction with psychologist Lee Jampolsky, the program, on Levinson’s private ranch, overlooking the spectacular 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
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 from Tropical Incentives.
After a 45-minute minivan ride down the lushly tropical Pan American highway from the Westin hotel in Puerto Vallarta, the participants hiked into the forest, then climbed to the shortest platform to get started. Experienced guides helped the Penn Mutual managers sail from tree to tree and platform to platform on a network of pulleys and horizontal cables that are mounted between 10 and 70 feet above the ground of the tropical forest. The highlight at the end is rappelling from a platform that’s 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 the day before. The other people who played golf were saying, "Oh man, we should have done that!’" Contact Tropical Incentives, (998) 884-4826; email@example.com; www.tropicalincentives.com.mx. —Sue Pelletier
Golf does not usually come to mind when people think of Wales, but that’s about to change. The Ryder Cup golf tournament will be held at The Celtic Manor Resort in 2010, and the Welsh are leveraging that event for many development initiatives in the golf and travel segments. But you might want to get to Wales soon, because the word already is spreading: the International Association of Golf Tour Operators named Wales the winner of the 2003 Undiscovered Golf Destination of the Year award.
Among the "must plays" in Wales:
-The Wentwood Hills course at The Celtic Manor in Newport, an annual stop on the European Tour and site of the Wales Open. It will host 2010 Ryder Cup. Wentwood Hills is American-style golf, so take note if your group wants just links experiences.
-Royal Porthcawl (in Porthcawl), a magnificent seaside track, generally regarded as the best in Wales. If the British Open ever is contested in Wales, insiders feel it will be played here. Tiger Woods played Porthcawl in 1995 as an amateur on the U.S. Walker Cup team.
-Pennard (on the Gower Peninsula near Swansea)—a little-known masterpiece that many golf architecture aficionados regard as one of the top 20 courses in the world. Pennard features the ruins of a Norman castle, wild horses, incredible undulation, and stupendous views of the Bristol Channel.
-Tenby, the oldest course in Wales—greens set among towering dunes, railroad tracks that run through the property, and a wonderful view of the popular seaside village of Tenby. And by the way, your producers probably won’t see any other Americans in Wales. They’re in Scotland and Ireland, fighting for tee times. Contact Patricia Crimp, Wales Tourist Board, 011-44-29-2047-5237; firstname.lastname@example.org; visitwales.com. —Larry Keltto
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