BY EDWINA STORIE
Yes, Europe is beautiful, America is fun, and Asia is exciting, but what’s the next big thing? We uncover some incentive destinations you might not have thought of and which will certainly get delegates motivated.
This rocky western town was once the domain of cowboys and cattle herds until an oil boom brought a wave of starry-eyed souls. It has grown into a vibrant city that still stays true to its western roots with locals often taking to the rugged landscape by horseback and hosting events such as the Calgary Stampede. Alberta is set to the west of the Canadian Rocky Mountains, while to the east, the Canadian Badlands have been eroded by an age of wind, creating canyons and coulees, and hosting some of the greatest discoveries of dinosaur fossils in the world. In the warmer months, take to the forests and mountains by horse, or fly fish or canoe on the glacier-fed lakes and rivers. In the winter months, the Rockies are blanketed in airy white powder and dotted with snow-chasers and dog sledders. The wonders of Alberta in winter are not only on land but in the sky. The Northern Lights of the aurora borealis sets the sky awash with incredible colour that are given even more life and amazement by old legends of lore. Standing on the ice in the hours before dawn with the stars blazing in neon hues is said to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Tourism bureau – www.travelalberta.com
Swoon-worthy movies – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ThFCg0tBDck
Jordan lies between sea and desert, east and west. It is a land of crumbling Roman ruins, ancient cities, bustling bazaars, rugged sandy landscapes, open woodlands and mineral hot springs. Jordan is the home of Biblical sites such as where Jesus was baptised and the fortress where Herod beheaded John the Baptist. Adventurous incentive travellers would be enchanted by the old city of Jerash or the ancient city of Petra that has a history spanning more than 2000 years. More subdued types might take to the traditional Hammamat Ma’ii hot springs, the nourishing properties of the Dead Sea, or meditation sessions held under a full moon. Yet it’s not all ruins, but also modern culture. Its capital Amman is a diverse Arab city with cosmopolitan waterfront restaurants and bars and elaborate retail precincts. Jordan has some incredible venues with the Al Manara, Aqaba that sits at the mouth of Jordan’s Saraya Lagoon set to open in late 2014. The incredible Evason Ma’in Hot Springs is an unbeatable incentive destination. Its Six Senses Spa sits directly beneath one of the natural hot spring waterfalls that cascades into the pool, and is a perfect location for experiencing Jordan’s awe-inspiring desert and nearby historical sites.
Links – http://visitjordan.com
DMC – http://www.dmcjordan.com/
At the southernmost tip of the Indian subcontinent sits Sri Lanka – a tiny country with a lot to it. It offers plenty in terms of history, culture, and promise. This is one country that will soon be a real traveller’s hot spot. Sri Lanka’s history reaches from signs of the Stone Age, ancient cities, early trade on the Silk Road, colonial reign and recent independence. Such a complex country makes for a wealth of personality. But it is also its landscape that makes this a destination sure to boom, with white sandy beaches and tropical parklands complete with roaming elephants and leopards, through to manicured green tea plantations. Endowed with a multitude of UNESCO-recognised ancient ruins, incentive groups can visit the remains of age-old tribes at the Cultural Triangle, explore the paddy fields of rural villages, follow the trail of colonialists through the tea farms, or dine within dilapidated mansions. With such history of European and Middle Eastern influence, Sri Lanka has some beautiful colonial-style venues along with more modern facilities coming from new investment into the area. Its best hotels include the Amangalla Colonial Resort based within a 17th century galle fort overlooking 200-year-old gardens, and the Amanwella Resort, sitting within a mature coconut grove.
Convention bureau – www.visitsrilanka.net
Tourism bureau – www.srilanka.travel
DMC – www.essenceofsrilanka.com
Masoala Peninsula, Madagascar
It could be said that a real incentive destination is one only accessible by boat or foot. The Masoala Peninsula sits in Madagascar – a country that isn’t the most stable, but what it lacks in government consistency, it makes up in beauty. Unrest breaks out very occasionally but it mainly keeps to the capital Antananarivo which is hardly of concern when sitting on the secluded beaches of the Masolala Peninsula. This is an undeveloped coastline of incredible beauty where rare birds and mischievous lemur play amid the treetops of mangroves, and humpback whales and dolphins inhabit the tropical waters of the Indian Ocean. This is a spot for adventurous groups who want to see the unseen. There is barely any infrastructure on the Masoala stretch – half the region’s appeal – as it only became a recognised national park in 1997. Yet for this, your group will be rewarded with empty beaches, mangrove forests, rocky coves and the tropical waters of the Indian Ocean. There is one place to stay if you don’t want your group to have to travel from inland – the Masoala Rainforest Lodge. Surely this is where you sleep when you go to heaven.
Paradise – www.masoalaforestlodge.com
DMC – www.malagasy-tours.com/en
DMC – www.couleursmalgaches.com
DMC – www.madagascar.seminaire.com/en
Add some European style to a tropical Jurassic landscape with coconut palms and a volcano, and you have Reunion Island. Think French-infused Hawaii. Ok, maybe it’s not that simple. This island on the Indian Ocean is the only European region in the southern hemisphere, and yet it blends Indian, African and Chinese influences. Its incredibly diverse landscape is made up of sheer cliffs, lava fields, waterfalls, dense rainforest, Creole architecture and quaint villages. Experiencing the tiny island can be done by horseback or helicopter, or while paragliding, surfing, or canyoning. The glowing eruption of the volcano is an incredible sight from the safety of the beach bar, or for the adventurous, volcano treks can be taken. There is a Novotel and a Mercure on the island, however the LUX* resort is a destination in itself. As well as boutique incentive and conferencing facilities, it has an island kitchen where local street food is cooked and prepared, a retro ice cream parlour right on the beach, and a sand cinema. It also strives to keep up an element of surprise, where guests can be led to a secret dinner, stumble upon a treasure chest of cocktails, or find a glass bottle in the sand that beholds a tropical spa treatment.
Reunion Island Tourism Bureau – www.reunion.fr/en/
LUX* resort – www.luxresorts.com/en/reunion-island
LUX* Videos – www.youtube.com/watch?v=asjAnRUDTNg youtube.com/watch?v=N9urYc9AC8M
The Panama people’s origins are a melting pot of Indian, African and Spanish. A place of Central American indigenous traditions, aquamarine waters, foggy highlands and rivers that weave through lush tropical wilderness, Panama is a small city coming into its own. In 2014 it will celebrate its 100th anniversary, marking it with a US$5.25 billion investment in hotels, retail and business infrastructure. Despite its determination to grow into a modern metropolis, a third of the country is made up of protected natural parks, home to some indigenous communities. The Archipiélago de las Perlas is a line of secluded islands and dreamy beaches to be explored, while inland there is a tapestry of colonial towns often alive with colourful festivals. Incentive delegates can canoe up the Chagres River to spend an afternoon in the Embera Indian Village where they can meet elders and learn the traditional practices of weaving and carving. Panama has recently seen a suite of new luxury hotels open up and will see more with the anniversary. The Westin Playa Bonita opened mid last year and sits on a coastal stretch just 20 minutes outside the city, while the Gamboa Rainforest Resort at the Panama Canal is only 17 kilometres from the city despite sitting in the heart of the Soberania National Park.