Dive deep into local destinations to create an unforgettable incentive program.
As incentive programs come back, they will become “more and more purposeful,” predicts Steffi Kordy, owner/president, Cocoon Incentives. “It will have to be especially worth it for participants to get out and face the world again.” This means that planners must dive deep into destinations for culturally immersive activities, she advises. Kordy offers these 5 tips for planning unique activities with a sense of place.
1. Keep an open mindset
Embrace cultural diversity in your incentive activities. When a culture feels exotic, you are usually at a destination far from your own. Remember that what is exotic to you is normal to those living there. Ask a lot of questions to make sure everyone is in sync and expectations are met.
2. Find a perfect guide
Incentive participants want a guide who can tell them authentically how it is to live in the destination they are visiting. They are less interested in the year a monument was built than in hearing an enticing anecdote about it. The perfect guide feels like a local friend sharing stories about the destination.
3. Create a context
Gradually introduce incentive groups to another culture, especially if it is very different. Without context, people might not want to venture out. With context, a cultural understanding is created that people relate to and respect.
4. Offer unique incentive activities
Incentive participants want unique activities that have a sense of place. One avenue into the local culture is learning how to make iconic food and drink: olive pressing in Crete instructed by a traditional farmer, rum distilling in Puerto Rico, wine blending in Napa. Other avenues can be local dance lessons such as tango in Argentina, or participating in a typical destination activity such as cow herding in Montana.
5. Add unexpected surprises
Wow incentive participants with unexpected surprises that have hyperlocal flair. Imagine the Blues Brothers mobile showing up on Chicago’s lakefront for a surprise music gig, an airplane banner with a personalized message flying by Ocean Drive in Miami as the group is having lunch, or a former prostitute-turned-tour-guide showing Las Vegas through her lens.