No Caribbean blog series would be complete without a post on room drops and gifting. Likewise, no Caribbean group incentive trip would be complete without offering your guests a little piece of the islands to enjoy while they are onsite, or to take home to enjoy for years to come.
While many of the Caribbean islands have a lot in common, each also has its individual personality – the nuances that make it special and unique. I like to think that it’s part of our job as meeting and event planners to find those unique local offerings and share them with our attendees throughout the program. The easiest way to do this is through Caribbean localgifting; the local gems you choose become both a treat and an education on the culture and traditions of your program’s host country.
The Tastes of the Caribbean
When I think about the Caribbean local gifting, I think of three things: sun, sand, and food. The sun and the sand show up on their own, so the first room drop I treat my winners and guests to is a local food item.
Rum in one of its many forms – every island has it, but each has its own recipe; rum balls, rum cake, rum candies, rum cookies, or a plain ‘ol bottle of rum. If you have pictures of your winners, consider ordering blank bottles and printing custom labels. This can be a great personalized room gift or a unique award as well.
Salty, Sweet, and Saucy snacks – For a salty snack, locals look to chips: taro root, sweet potato, cassava, and plantain chips are a snacking must-have at the pool and beach. Sweet treats like coconut bread, tamarind balls, banana fritters, and fruit breads are nice late night snacks that offer a taste of the destination. As far as sauces go, I’ve never been to an island that didn’t offer a signature sauce; locally grown pepper hot sauces, jerk, curry, sweet mango, fire pepper, Caribbean BBQ, the list is as long as the archipelagos themselves.
Caribbean spices – Due to the diverse make-up of the Caribbean, the food is bold, flavorful, spicy, hot, fresh and truly representative of a melting pot. Give your attendees the gift of nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, allspice, and ginger; they can whip up their own dishes back home and find their taste buds transporting them back to your trip!
The Handmade Arts
The Caribbean is full of rich cultural and artistic communities, and the history and traditions provide many themes and inspiration for artists. In most cases, local artisans are thrilled to work with you to provide one-of-a-kind gifts. Painters use watercolors and acrylic to offer prints featuring iconic destination images, and potters embrace the local floral and fauna to create colorful pottery that represents each island. Local textiles artists offer intricate lace from Puerto Rico, colorful batik in St. Kitts, and authentic baskets woven from leaves and grasses in Curaçao. Jewelry artists can provide unique pieces specific to your destination – silver or gold hook bracelets in the Virgin Islands, larimar and amber from the Dominican Republic, and Caribbean pearls and coral pieces from many of the islands. Your options are endless!
We typically set up a local artisan market at our evening events, with 8-12 artists onsite creating and selling their products. Guest love the interaction with the artists, and the opportunity to choose locally handmade gifts for themselves.
The Caribbean Local Gifting Experience
Most meeting planners are familiar with the concept of the gifting experience. Guests are presented with a number of options and are able to choose the gift that best matches their interests. Options typically include imported products like sunglasses, electronics, flip flops and a choice of some bag, backpack, or purse. In the Caribbean, you have the opportunity to take advantage of the unique culture, and take your gifting experience to the next level. We’ve done Tropical or Camp shirts, straw hats, locally made sandals, sarongs, shorts (as in Bermuda shorts), destination t-shirts and local golf apparel.
The key takeaway here is that standard resort amenities like champagne and fruit are nice, but a gift with a little local flare shows thoughtfulness and creativity. These are your top performers and their guests; they deserve a first-class experience. With a little extra planning, you can do far better than standard and nice, you can offer “WOW!”
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