To build your business using an incentive program, it's important to choose a reward that's unique, has plenty of "WOW" factor and appeals to virtually all of your top performers and big clients.
Few incentives turn heads quite like international travel.
The more difficult, expensive and time-consuming it is for people to put together their own trip - the more effective the incentive becomes.
We've curated a list of 5 international destinations topping the lists of travel trends today.
From warm, sandy tropical resorts to dramatic landscapes and more, see what bucket-list locales are building businesses most effectively in 2018.
1. Reykjavík, Iceland
Thanks to its jaw-dropping natural wonders, rich culture and history, the northern island nation of Iceland is again one of this year’s most in-demand destinations.
But with some 1.7 million tourists arriving in 2016, the country of 330,000 inhabitants is buckling under demand. Some politicians have even suggested capping tourists, particularly at its most famous hotspots.
So if adventure and bucket-list sights appeal to your VIPs, you might want to plan a trip sooner rather than later.
Check Northern Lights off the bucket list
From September to mid-April, Iceland is one of the best places in the world to witness Aurora Borealis, or the northern lights. To get the most out of your experience, try a guided boat tour. As you sail away from the coastline of Reykjavik you can see the aurora borealis out on the North-Atlantic Ocean with the beautiful coastline of the capital, the mountains and city lights in the background. Expert guides entertain the group with folklore and scientific facts about this magical light show.
It does get chilly and much of the time will be spent outside gazing at the night sky, so bring warm clothes; many tours also provide cozy overalls.
(Note: If weather becomes too windy, guided tours are also offered by bus.)
Unwind in the Blue Lagoon
Take a dip in the famous Blue Lagoon geothermal spa. Surrounded by immense lava fields, the seawater in the Blue Lagoon provides an oasis of relaxation. The sauna and steam rooms, carved into the lava rock, reflect the stunning landscape around the Blue Lagoon. Guests are encouraged to put on the silica mud mask and notice an immediate difference in the softness of their skin, while a manmade waterfall at the spa works wonders on sore shoulders and stiff muscles.
Other stunning sights include Gullfoss ("Golden Falls") waterfall, Golden Circle glacier, Sun Voyager sculpture, Þingvellir National Park and more.
2. Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland, administratively goverend by the United Kingdom, is rising in popularity for travelers. No doubt a large part of the region's resurgence has been its ties to HBO's Game of Thrones, the most popular TV show in the world. The show airs in more than 170 countries and holds the record for most Emmys ever won by a prime-time series.
The megahit has what travel planners are calling "the Midas touch": An uptick in visitors across Europe and northern Africa -including Morroco, Malta and Northern Ireland - can be traced back directly to the show. These areas are home to The Kingsroad, Winterfell, The Wall, Dragonstone and more.
Game of Thrones will finish its run in 2019, making now the perfect time to plan an incentive trip to the Antrim Coast, Mourne Mountains, Causeway Coast and Belfast. See up close the historic castles, breathtaking waterfalls, glens, historic ruins and castles that set the stage for the groundbreaking show.
Get the inside scoop on Game of Thrones
Send those most important to your business on an unforgettable tour into the very heart of the Seven Kingdoms landscape. Guides will lead your VIPs to verdant valleys where Lannisters, Starks and the Dothraki horde crossed. One highlight is the Magheramore Quarry, the iconic backdrop to Castle Black and Hardhome. (In reality, Magheramore is a small hamlet of about 75 people, a former stone quarry that today acts primaily as a set for the show.)
On a jagged outcrop high above the waves sits the ruins of Dunluce Castle (or House of Greyjoy, as Game of Thrones fans know it). Further down the road is Downhill Strand, a seven mile stretch of golden sand where Lady Melisandre burned the seven gods of Westeros in sacrifice to R’hllor. Finally, don't miss the Dark Hedges, a haunting avenue of serpentine beech trees used to depict the Kingsroad where Arya disguised herself to avoid capture.
Fiji, an archipelago of more than 300 islands, enjoys a coveted spot on Travel + Leisure's "50 Best Places to Travel in 2018" - and with incredible scenery, powder white beaches and pure blue water, it's not hard to see why. Most of your big clients and top performers will have never seen anything like these colorful reefs, exclusive resorts and tropical gardens.
It won’t take long for travelers to feel right at home as they're greeted with an infectious "Bula!" by Fijians, some of the most genuinely friendly people in the world.
Get away to a private villa
Starting Fall 2018, Winspire is pleased to offer exclusive access to a newly built, authentic Fijian crafted villa at the Auberge Beach Villas at Nanuku. These oceanfront villas offer private access to a two mile strip of stunning beach. It's located on Viti Levu, the main (and most accessible) island, and your playground is Fiji’s adventure capital, the Pacific Harbour.
This bucket-list lodging houses up to 4 and is perfect for a smaller group or incentive prize. Enjoy modern island luxury featuring indoor/outdoor living at its finest, including a private garden courtyard and plunge pool. Services and activities include access to a private island, ocean sports (Hobie Cats, kayaks, paddle boards and snorkeling equipment), daily wellness class (activities such as yoga, boxing, boot camp and judo rotate on a daily basis), crafts and cultural activities, plus access to amenities of a neighboring luxury resort.
In fact, the setting is so spectacular, your VIPs' next-door neighbor is the President of Fiji!
Looking to pull out all the stops? Make your incentive truly irresistible with private in-villa chef prepared meals, access to a private airstrip 2 minutes from the resort, motorized water sport rentals, kids’ programs and family-friendly activities.
Diving and snorkeling
In Fiji, diving season is all year round. Conditions around Fiji enjoy some current, which makes underwater life in the Islands exquisitely rich and colorful. Known as "The Soft Coral Capital of the World," corals bloom in vibrant hues, while the water visibility remains clear and unclouded. Shorelines are perfect spots for adults and children alike to go snorkeling and swimming.
4. Banff, Canada
Banff, a resort town located in the heart of the Canadian Rockies and home to Canada's first national park, has been a travel hot spot in recent years. It just earned a spot on CNN Travel's "Top Places to Visit in 2018" thanks to its unique year-round appeal.
In colder months, Banff offers a pristine winter landscape. World-renowned snow activities include skating along Lake Louise, horse-drawn sleigh rides, ice festivals, dog sledding tours and, of course, world-famous skiing and snowboarding.
Summer travelers enjoy an equally unforgettable experience. Take a scenic stroll, go rock climbing, take a helicopter tour, explore on road and mountain bikes, stand up paddleboard, fish, and soak in the majesty of Lake Louise.
Luxury lodging idea: Fairmont Banff Springs (Alberta)
Located 64 miles from Calgary, few hotels in the world can rival the majesty, hospitality and scenery of The Fairmont Banff Springs. This property is a member of Conde Nast's prestigious Gold List and overlooks "a sparkling, glacial blue lake surrounded by snowcapped Rocky Mountain peaks," according to Travel+Leisure Magazine. The Fairmont Banff Springs offers stunning vistas, championship golf courses, unparalleled skiing, classic cuisine and Willow Stream, a world class European-style spa.
Your VIPs will not soon forget the timeless beauty they see among the peaks, where majestic mountains soaring skyward are reflected in the vibrant blues and greens of the glacier that feeds Lake Louise. They can hit the ski slopes in winter, paddle a canoe in the summer, savor cuisine year round, and soak up the casual elegance that makes The Fairmont a memorable experience.
Sugar-white beaches, friendly locals and a stable warm climate make Aruba a perennial favorite destination for corporate meetings and incentives. Travelers can pack a lot of fun into the picturesque Caribbean island just 19.6 miles long and 6 miles across, located 15 miles north of Venezuela. Plus they're located just below the hurricane belt, so the climate is drier than many Caribbean islands.
No visit to Aruba is complete without a thorough exploration of Orangestad, the capital city on the south and west coasts of Aruba. The city is home to world-class beaches, luxury hotels, local handcrafts and shopping, all-inclusive resorts, plus the international airport. From January to February each year, the city hosts many celebrations for Carnival. Plan a trip during Carnival to see stunning glittery floats, torchlit parades and live music performances that embody the island vibe.
As mentioned, the pristine, easily accessible beaches of Aruba are considered some of the most spectacular in the world. That said, Aruba offers many other popular sights, historical attractions, tours and special events.
On the northeast coast, keep your eyes peeled for Aruba's famous fofoti trees (pictured above). Constant trade winds have pushed the trees into memorable bending forms.
Another natural wonder to check out: Arikok National Park, a desert-like preserve with a variety of wildlife, cacti and dramatic rock formations. Here you'll find some of Aruba’s most striking views, as the ocean crashes against the rugged shoreline below.
To see where companies are building business with incentive travel in the U.S., see...
Let Winspire Help Brainstorm Your Next Incentive
Looking for more destinations that will excite and intrigue your VIPs and build your business? We have hundreds more ideas.From airport transfers, coordinating activities, choosing accommodations, unique dining arrangements and more - Winspire helps take your next program to the next level.
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