The Caribbean, long a popular incentive destination for insurance groups, looks to be red-hot in 2004 and 2005, according to area hoteliers and insurance conference planners.“The pricing is competitive and in our experience the people are wonderful everywhere we go,” says Mark Mosley, division manager, meetings, award and promotions, Allstate Insurance Co., Irving, Texas. “It's an attractive value.”

Drew Toth, director of marketing and sales at the Westin Rio Mar Beach Resort Hotel in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico, says that the region's burgeoning incentive business is being led by insurance and banking companies making strong pushes for revenue growth.

In addition, the Caribbean has a healthy hospitality and tourism infrastructure, able to provide an experience that's “a defining moment in [producers'] lives,” notes Mike Crist, director of incentive and insurance industry sales for the Wyndham El Conquistador Resort in Fajardo, Puerto Rico. Insurance meeting business is up about 25 to 30 percent at the Wyndham El Conquistador over the past year, he says.

Both Toth and Crist believe there is something cyclical about the insurance meeting boom in the Caribbean. Crist says that the construction of large resort hotels in the early 1990s attracted planners who are now “cycling through” again, and they are finding expanded facilities as well as rediscovering the area's natural attributes.

Tim Cietek, marketing manager for Empire Travel Services of Guilderland, N.Y., says his firm, which does most of its business with insurance companies, has seen a 25 percent increase in Caribbean bookings over the last 18 months. “The name ‘Caribbean’ has a certain ring to it,” he says. “It just has more of an allure as an incentive prize.”