Where to Take Your Incentive Groups in 2019

incentive destinations, Cartagena, Colombia, Asheville, North Carolina, Panama, Anchorage, Alaska, Flip the Script
Cartagena, Colombia; Photo Credit: Ricardo Gomez Angel/Unsplash

When meeting planners educate and pitch their first-hand experiences of off-the-radar destinations to their clients, companies become more risk-adverse and more adventurous.

As an experiential marketer and meeting planner, I love introducing off-the-beaten-path destinations to my clients. My distributed model clients particularly demand undiscovered hidden gems for their company retreats. Their employees are based around the world, so it makes sense to look beyond those first-tier cities and help them discover something new.

Beach destinations are always a hit—especially in the beginning of the year when it’s freezing in most of the northern hemisphere. Culturally-rich destinations are also a draw as they allow the teams to learn in different ways and incorporate local customs into their bonding time. Not to mention, attendees will walk away from these destinations more worldly, and you can bet they will always remember the event.

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Here are my four off-the-beaten-path destinations that should be on your radar for incentive groups in 2019:

Cartagena, Colombia

You may be thinking “Narcos,” but you should be thinking safe, cultural, beach, with unlimited unique meeting space. In Cartagena, you have both city life and the beach all within a few blocks. The old, walled city is a must for dinners and even a scavenger hunt during the day. Coffee is king, and I highly suggest a coffee tasting class for team building. Cartagena also has ample infrastructure to host meetings of all sizes—and it’s affordable!

Anchorage, Alaska

While this is not exactly a warm destination, it’s certainly one your attendees will never forget. It isn’t called the “Last Frontier” for nothing! Plan your incentive around the Iditarod (March 2 this year), and let your attendees meet and greet the mushers and dogs. With more than 8,000 sleeping rooms and two convention centers, Anchorage is a beautiful destination that’s also affordable—and did I mention there’s no sales tax? Oh, and your attendees may even see the Northern Lights.

Panama City, Panama

Panama City has modern infrastructure, easy air access, and a wealth of cultural and natural attractions for team building. Of course, it’s home to the Panama Canal, which is a bucket list item for many people. Plus, it’s home to various indigenous tribes that welcome visitors into their villages for a day of cultural learning. Panama City is just plain easy: English is predominantly spoken, no U.S. currency-exchange is needed, and it’s safe. There are more than 15,000 sleeping rooms from boutiques to big-box chains. Choose a beach destination, a rainforest destination or the city. You can’t go wrong.

Asheville, N.C.

Who knew this little mountain town—known for its bohemian flair—had so much to offer? With the second-growing airport in the U.S., it’s easy to access. Plus, new boutique properties are popping up left and right. And the food: Top-notch cuisine is available all around, coupled with craft breweries. With more than 8,000 sleeping rooms, this walkable destination offers unique team-building activities galore. An added bonus: The CVB staff is one of the best in the country.

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