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 Shakespeare Theater at Chicago's Navy Pier September 15, kicking off the IT&ME Show.

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

PGI, Vancouver, B.C., rescheduled its winning 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, relocated 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, for a six-day, five-night trip to Lanai 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 created for the Lauren Ralph Lauren (LRL) brand. Creative Memories, St. Cloud, Minn., took top honors in the Most Outstanding Single Event category for a day spent renovating a 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.