There was a palpable buzz in the air during the Society of Incentive and Travel Executives' Crystal Awards ceremony, held November 5 at its international conference in Merida, Mexico—an energy that hasn't been felt since SmithBucklin took over the management of the association two years ago.

Winners were announced during an elegant luncheon reception. Programs were evaluated for return on investment, creativity, logistics, and their ability to overcome unexpected challenges.

Those challenges were significant ones and included a program to increase results for Drive, a classified section in Melbourne, Australia’s The Age newspaper. The program was expected to achieve the same results as the previous year's trip to the Italian Grand Prix (with a budget of $2.7 million U.S.), but with a budget that had been slashed by 85 percent. Qualifiers were primarily owners and managers of automobile dealerships. For that accomplishment, incentive house 212F of Melbourne won a Crystal in the category of "Most Creative Use of an Incentive Program to Solve a Marketing Problem–External Marketing Campaign."

Another winner with an extraordinary challenge was Incentive Travel, LLC, San Diego, Calif., whose client, Viacom Television, had chosen Russia as its incentive destination, but changed its plan because of the war in Iraq. Incentive Travel developed an alternative using Palm Springs, Calif., and a 24-hour trip to Las Vegas.

Many of the winning programs showed proof that luxury is returning to incentive trips, and included first-class features reminiscent of the early '90s. For example, a WBNS-TV program for top advertisers planned by Travel Dynamics Group, La Jolla, Calif., included a flight from Columbus, Ohio, to Vancouver, B.C. on a private jet, a sunset cruise on a luxury yacht, a private lunch at the Capilano Suspension Bridge, and a floatplane transfer to Whistler, B.C.

Congratulations to all the 2004 Crystal Award Winners:

  • Most Creative Use of an Incentive Program to Solve a Marketing Problem–External Marketing Campaign—Simon Hilton, 212F, Melbourne, Australia, for "The Age"
  • Most Creative Use of an Incentive Program to Solve a Marketing Problem–External Marketing Campaign—Bill Bryson, MotivAction, LLC, Minneapolis, for Lexis-Nexis
  • Most Outstanding Incentive Travel Program–5 Nights or More, 5 to 75 Participants—Kim Hester, Travel Dynamics Group, La Jolla, Calif., for WBNS-TV
  • Most Outstanding Incentive Travel Program–5 Nights or More, 76 to 200 Participants—Kirsten Strand & Richard K. Lowy, PGI, Vancouver, B.C., for Elar Canada
  • Category: Most Outstanding Incentive Travel Program–5 Nights or More, Over 200 Participants—Penny Wing, Incentive Travel LLC, San Diego, Calif.
  • Most Outstanding Incentive Travel Program–5 Nights or More, Over 200 Participants—Morag Donald, Maritz Canada Inc., Mississauga, Ontario, for Nortel Networks
  • Most Outstanding Catered Event at an Incentive Program—Harith Wickrema, Harith Productions Ltd., Oreland, Pa., for Viasys Healthcare