The definition of incentive travel is a group experience that attendees could not create on their own. True incentive trips are designed to be one-of-a-kind. But in recent years and for multiple reasons—from budgets to perceptions to the pandemic—companies have moved away from the incentive trips of old.
Not any more, says Kevin Devanney, president of Incentive Travel Solutions. One-of-a-kind travel incentives are back in a big way now that the pandemic is waning.
Prevue asked Devanney about some of the highlights of his 25-year incentive travel portfolio.
Incentive Travel Solutions may be the only company in history to privatize the Colosseum in Rome for a company’s President’s Club Trip. The 700 guests were greeted with traditional flag-throwers, horn-blowers and Roman circus performers as they arrived at the Colosseum, then headed inside for a unique experience in one of Rome’s most famous ancient treasures.
Devanney says that evening only happened because of the strong relationships his company has built over the decades it has been operating incentive trips in Rome. It took pulling the right strings with the right people at the right time to make it happen. “I can say with some confidence that it probably won’t ever be done again,” he says.
While in Rome, of course, qualifiers will want to do the usual tourist highlights, such as throwing a coin in the Trevi Fountain, but to make it a true incentive means giving them an experience they couldn’t do on their own.
“I always say, if you can buy it online or in a catalog, if you can run into your neighbor there, it’s not really an incentive. We’re always, for every trip, trying to create something that nobody’s ever done before—even if it does mean pushing our DMC partners outside of their comfort zones on occasion.”
While the night at the Colosseum was a highlight in its portfolio, Incentive Travel Solutions has also organized and executed many other one-of-a-kind events, including five fashion shows in The Louvre in Paris, a private incentive dinner at the base of the Pyramids in Egypt, and an event on a Tahitian Island it had privatized for the occasion.
A cruise on a private yacht down the Amalfi Coast? Check. A side trip on a pre- or post-trip extension to a hot new destination like Puglia on Italy’s Southern Coast? Check.
Creating those uniquely “wow” travel incentives is not always about just throwing money at the destination, he says. “Really, it comes down to the partners that I’ve worked with for over 25 years now in the industry that do special things for me that maybe they won’t do for everybody else, which I appreciate. It requires a company that has some history and some experience to create some events that are special.”
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