The spring breakers, at least the rowdy kind, have been gone from Daytona Beach for some time, an intentional move by city fathers who didn’t like the tarnished image the college scene left behind. In its place came a destination marketing focus on family vacationers (you can still drive on some of the 23 miles of sandy, white beaches from sunrise to sunset), as well as on activities that center around the Daytona International Speedway, home to the Daytona 500 and other NASCAR races, as well as bike weeks.

 

But what escaped this writer—and I would venture many of the other guests at Site Florida’s Spring Break, Incentive Style two-day event in April—for a very long time is that this resort town is more than adult enough to offer some of the best in group travel award incentives.

Hosted by The Shores Resort & Spa, Central Florida’s only beachfront AAA Four Diamond property, Site Florida’s event offered a number of "bucket list" activities, including an opportunity to golf the Legends Course at LPGA International, skydive, eco-cruise on the Intracoastal Waterway, or languish in the luxurious spa at the resort. Day two featured a four-star educational panel on the changing face of incentive travel, giving the hosted incentive buyers and suppliers insight into the Site Foundation International’s recent groundbreaking research into what really motivates end users—qualifiers and nonqualifiers alike. (Look for an upcoming article in Corporate Meetings & Incentives.)

The two-day event was a perfect example of what incentive qualifiers do want: a wide range of choices for activities, meaningful teambuilding, the right mix of education and networking opportunities, and a destination that can’t be beat.

In between were incredible displays of food-and-beverage acumen showcasing the wide-ranging talents of The Shores’ Executive Chef Mike Bartscher, who came to the resort 12 years ago as an apprentice after graduating from Daytona State College's Culinary program. “He had great mentors in the period and became executive chef in 2010,” according to Francis W. Purvey, director of leisure sales and marketing, The Shores, former Site Florida president, and chairman of the Site Florida event.

Purvey also organized a CSR event, an evening reception that featured a moving motivational speech by Gary Bergenske, Imperial First Ceremonial Master, Shriners International, and a Silent Auction, the proceeds from which benefited Shriners Hospitals for Children, which specialize in treating burn patients. The Shriners will bring their national convention to Daytona Beach in 2017.

The event’s pièce de résistance was an afternoon at the Daytona International Speedway’s Richard Petty Driving Experience, where, after a tour of the speedway, the attendees got to ride with race-car drivers in authentic stock cars—climbing into fire-resistant gear, being fitted with helmets, and wearing neck braces to steel themselves against the 160-mile-per-hour legs that took them up 31-degree banks that NASCAR racers in the Daytona 500 experience. For me (and many others), it was the thrill of a lifetime, an exhilarating ride that turned my gritted teeth from frozen fear to a perpetual grin as the ride continued for three whole laps.

Afterward the attendees shuttled to the Xtreme Karting track, where they had their own Go-kart race, pitting six teams of four in a high-speed contest that created a new camaraderie and good-natured competition among attendees. Sponsor John Guthrie, vice president, business development and partnerships, Daytona International Speedway, topped off the afternoon with an awards ceremony and food and drink at the exclusive Daytona 500 Club.

The Shores

The Shores is an oasis among dozens of gleaming towers along the beach, located in the quiet stretch of Daytona Beach Shores. The hotel offers 212 rooms and suites with ocean and Intracoastal Waterway views, private poolside cabanas (which can be used for private group dining), oceanside fire pits, a laid-back al fresco Palapa Tiki Bar, and the signature restaurant, Azure.

The staff is outstanding, many of them having worked there for years. Indoor and outdoor meeting space tops out at 20,000 square feet and includes several rooftop function rooms as well as a grand ballroom on the lobby level large enough to accommodate 765 theater-style.

The Green Lodging Program, Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection’s conservation seal, has certified the resort, which is also a member of Clean the World.

The Site Global Conference will be held December 6–10, 2013, in Orlando, just 60 miles from Daytona Beach.