The Society of Incentive & Travel Executives put some "theater" back into its annual Crystal Awards ceremony, holding the gala to honor top incentive programs at the dramatic Shakespeare Theater at Chicago's Navy Pier on September 15, kicking off the 2003 IT&ME Show.

To make it into the winners’ circle, incentive planners had to prove the business results of their motivational programs, some of which grew sales as much as 25 percent. But ROI wasn’t their only challenge. Three out of four of the winners of the "Most Outstanding Incentive Travel Program" award had to re-locate their trips because of safety and security concerns—a sign of the hurdles incentive planners have faced in the past year.

PGI, Vancouver, British Columbia, re-scheduled an Italian Riviera cruise for a major insurance company to The Montage Resort and Spa in Laguna Beach, Calif., just six weeks out. The Incentive Consultants, Sydney, Australia, won for "The Lion's Share," a safari for Minolta Business Equipment, which was moved from Zimbabwe to South Africa and Botswana. And MotivAction, Minneapolis, Minn., re-located an entire ship, the Radisson Diamond, from the Greek Isles to the Baltic Sea for a cruise for John Deere's Agricultural Division winners. The fourth winner for "Most Outstanding Incentive Travel Program" was Incentive Travel LLC, San Diego, Calif., for a six-day, five-night trip to Lanai, Hawaii, for top customers of CBS and UPN.

The winner for "Best Incentive Promotion Program" was Light Associates, White Plains, N.Y., for a customer loyalty program they created for the Lauren Ralph Lauren (LRL) brand. Creative Memories, St. Cloud, Minn., took top honors in the category of "Most Outstanding Single Event," for a day spent renovating the primary school in La Cruz de Quelitan, Mexico, as part of an incentive trip to Puerto Vallarta for its consultants. An Atlantis-themed evening at Atlantis Paradise Island for Viasys Healthcare's Chairman's Club won Harith Productions Ltd., Oreland Park, Pa., the honor of "Outstanding Catered Event at an Incentive Program."