Domestic Incentive Travel will Lead the Charge for the Return of Club Trips
Domestic destinations will be more popular for incentive travel programs in a post-Covid economy, according to the Incentive Travel Industry Index, the preeminent research study published jointly by IRF, SITE, and FICP. The study reports a sizeable pent-up demand for incentive travel after the freedom to travel was taken away. While travelers are ready to pack up their suitcases, companies are a bit more cautious of allowing them to board the jet and cross the border, which will make nearby locations the preferred destinations for 2021 (Q3 & Q4) and 2022.
The Best USA Domestic Destinations for Corporate Incentive Travel
Kauai and the Big Island top the list of Hawaii islands for post-Covid incentive trips. They have fewer travelers than Maui and Oahu, which helps with social distancing; and new, undiscovered adventures await club trip winners, who are less likely to have visited these Pacific paradises. Unique activities on Kauai include zodiac boat tours of the rugged Na Pali Coast, hiking the North Shore, and helicopter tours of the Waimea Canyon, the ‘Grand Canyon of Hawaii.’ On the Big Island, catching a glimpse of the active Kilauea volcano must be checked off a savvy traveler’s bucket list.
Grand Hyatt Kauai
Escape to the soothing golden sands of Poipu on Kauai’s sunny south shore at Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa. This luxury oasis with lush gardens and acres of pools offers ocean view dining, rooms with private lanais, championship golf, and Anara Spa.
Four Seasons Hualalai
Surrounded by white sand beaches and black lava landscapes, Four Seasons Resort Hualalai is perfectly situated for all kinds of island adventures. The spirit of Hawaii, from its long-held traditions to its inspired art, informs every detail of the idyllic retreat.
Hawaii’s warmth and serenity are reflected throughout the design of the family-friendly Fairmont Orchid with 540 spacious guest rooms, suites, and the exclusive Fairmont Gold concierge floor.
Auberge Mauna Lani
On the dramatic Kohala Coast, Mauna Lani’s secluded beaches, coral reefs, and ancient fishponds set the stage for transformative experiences. Gather at the open-air village center that serves as the vibrant heart of Auberge Mauna Lani.
2. PALM BEACH
Palm Beach is enjoying a renaissance of renovation to shopping and dining, and it has the podium-power cache of upper-class elegance. Long sandy beaches, glamorous surroundings, and world-class resorts are sure to accommodate domestic incentive trips that seek to impress the C-suite.
Eau Palm Beach
Eau Palm Beach is a former Ritz-Carlton (so it has good DNA) that switched to an independent hotel six years ago after a multi-million dollar renovation. The only independent property in Palm Beach to earn the coveted Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star recognition and one of ten in Florida to earn the AAA Five Diamond Award, Eau Palm Beach is a top-tier choice for domestic incentive travel.
This historic Palm Beach resort has been an iconic staple for over a century. Today, the story of The Breakers continues, holding fast to the ideals that put it on the map—unapologetic luxury, seaside glamour, and world-class service.
Boca Raton Beach Club Resort
Located a few miles south along the coast, the Boca Raton Beach Club is a short drive from Palm Beach and offers another option for elite programs. Extensive renovations are underway in 2021, making it a hot spot to keep an eye on for new programs. Its spa is massive and spectacular, with over 44 treatment rooms, so be prepared to set aside time in the itinerary for some pampering!
Clearwater, Florida, is a fantastic location with high value for the dollar. Incentive trips looking for pristine white sand beaches and wish to stay within budget can benefit from this domestic bargain. Check out a more detailed write up in this Clearwater blog post.
The Sandpearl is an award-winning Clearwater Beach resort that reflects the casual elegance of Florida’s Gulf Coast. It reminds many travelers of a Ritz-Carlton; from their zero-entry pool to the beachfront fire pits that light up the night, Sandpearl Resort invites visitors to experience pure paradise.
Warm and inviting with a splash of excitement, Wyndham Grand Clearwater Beach is the newest AAA 4 Diamond hotel lining the scenic Gulf shore. This resort has everything a program needs to make each moment of a Clearwater escape memorable.
4. CHARLESTON, SAVANNAH, DEEP SOUTH
Charleston and Savannah always rank high with leisure travelers in Top City award from Travel + Leisure and Conde Nast Traveler magazine, yet many club trips fly over these Low Country gems. The Deep South offers plentiful golf options, lots of culture, and superb dining.
Charleston’s grandest new luxury hotel, Hotel Bennett, is inspired by native Charlestonians and classic European design creating a new nexus of culture and splendor in the Holy City.
The Sanctuary at Kiawah Island
Reminiscent of a grand seaside mansion, The Sanctuary at Kiawah Island Golf Resort was designed to feel like it has been on Kiawah Island for centuries. Its magnificent setting, luxurious amenities, and warm, attentive hospitality await President Club Trips from all over the US.
Montage Palmetto Bluff
Montage Palmetto Bluff encompasses an extensive nature preserve, two picturesque villages featuring eight Southern-inspired dining options, a riverfront marina, and a Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course.
5. SEA ISLAND
Voted Best Islands in the Continental USA in Travel + Leisure’s 2020 World’s Best Awards, South of Charleston, SC, and North of Jacksonville, FL, the Golden Isles of Georgia offers three acclaimed Forbes 5-star resorts.
The Cloister has hosted Presidents and Global Summits. It’s historic, classic, elegant, and luxurious. The Beach Club is contiguous and sits right on the Atlantic Ocean beach. A few miles away, The Lodge is the perfect spot for golf groups, sitting on three championship courses.
The slogan, Keep Austin Weird, is well-known, as are its music scene and quirky bars. The central location provides quick access, which is a change-of-pace for shorter trips and meetings. It’s also a superb option if the trip is a mix of relaxation, socialization, and business meetings.
Fairmont Austin is a fantastic option for raising your attendee experience to the next level. This 37-story luxury hotel directly connects to the convention center and has nearly 140,000 square feet of meeting space of its own.
Four Seasons Austin
Austin’s particular brand of cool is evident in every detail of the downtown Four Seasons Austin, from local art to Texas-inspired spa treatments. Incredible margaritas, miles of lakeside trails, and spacious rooms overlooking idyllic Lady Bird Lake make it a top Texas incentive travel option.
Omni Barton Creek Resort
Omni Barton Creek is located outside of the downtown area, nestled into the hills west of Austin. With 15,000 sq ft of meeting room and flexible space that can stretch out onto their perfectly manicured grounds outside, Omni Barton Creek is a property that’s perfect for hosting a socially-distanced VIP corporate gathering.
Commodore Perry Estate
The Commodore Perry Estate brings a new level of contemporary glamour and whimsical soul to Austin. The picturesque grounds offer a welcoming 10-acre setting in the heart of the city. Luxury and seclusion make it the perfect choice for a domestic C-suite or Director-level retreat.
7. SANTA FE
Like Charleston and Savannah, Santa Fe regularly ranks in the Top 10 Best Cities in America. Southwestern charm mixed with Pueblo-style architecture make for a completely unique travel experience to expose winners to something outside the normal sun and sand.
Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado
In Santa Fe, it’s hard not to feel a little spoiled by the rugged beauty that surrounds the intimate, 65-room Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado. Set in the Sangre de Cristo foothills, and just 10 minutes from downtown’s shops and galleries, Rancho Encantado is an undeniably top-tier Santa Fe resort.
Rosewood Inn at Anasazi
Located in the heart of downtown Santa Fe, Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi celebrates the enduring creative spirit and traditions of the region, offering incentive winners an elegantly modern take on Pueblo life.
La Posada de Santa Fe
At La Posada de Santa Fe, the rich history of New Mexico meets modern amenities. This member of Historic Hotels of America recognizes and celebrates the architecture and culture that make Santa Fe so unique.
8. PARK CITY
After landing in Salt Lake City, a quick 40-minute drive whisks club trip winners up into the mountains and into another world. Home to the 2002 Olympics, winter activities include skiing and snowmobiling. In the mountains, the locals say, “they came for the winter but stayed for the summer.” In the summertime, the stunning mountain views, greenery, and fresh air offer glorious hiking, and the Utah Olympic Park has summer adrenaline activities such as ziplining and extreme tubing.
St. Regis Deer Valley
Ski-in and ski-out access and a private ski valet make The St. Regis Deer Valley the perfect option for incentive travel groups seeking to hit the slopes in the most luxurious fashion.
Montage Deer Valley
Located just five minutes from Main Street, Montage Deer Valley is home to a 35,000 sq ft spa sanctuary, locally-inspired dining, and year-round activities from mountain biking to fly fishing. There’s a fireplace in every room and smores with housemade, flavored marshmallows; what’s not to love?
Stein Eriksen Lodge
Spacious rooms, award-winning cuisine, and après cocktails. The Stein Eriksen Lodge is a wonderful incentive travel option for mountain-bound programs that could benefit from a world-class offering of amenities.
The red rock backdrop of Sedona, Arizona, is a breathtaking array of colors that acts as a monument to the unforgettable experience that awaits a Circle of Excellence club trip. Domestic incentive travel locations that thrive tend to be those that break the mold, and Sedona is anything but ordinary.
Nestled at the base of Boynton Canyon, in the heart of Sedona, Enchantment Resort provides the perfect escape for tranquility, connection, and exploration. Over 140 weekly resort activities make for a varied itinerary that has something for everyone.
L’Auberge de Sedona Resort & Spa
L’Auberge de Sedona is at the center of Sedona’s majestic scenery, inspired by the stunning environment. Each amenity is fine-tuned to create unforgettable moments, from the world-class golf course to the forest-entrenched spa.
10. ORANGE COAST
The Pacific Coast Highway has famous views of the Pacific Ocean from SoCal to San Fran. A short, 20-mile stretch of the “PCH” passes through the Orange Coast communities of Newport Beach, Laguna Beach, Monarch Beach, and Dana Point, which are home to 4 spectacular resorts for club trips. With exceptional weather all year long, these resorts are safe picks for 5-star treatment of top sellers.
The Resort at Pelican Hill
Perched upon 504 acres of unrivaled coastal beauty, The Resort at Pelican Hill is set apart as a world unto itself, offering a secluded sanctuary. Private, residential-style villas and bungalows are all spacious and casually elegant, with an attentive staff to anticipate a guest’s needs at every turn.
Montage Laguna Beach
This beachfront sanctuary features two outdoor pool decks, a 20,000 sq ft spa, and three award-winning restaurants with spectacular views of the California coast. Montage Laguna Beach sports one of the most refined incentive travel experiences on the Orange Coast.
Waldorf Astoria Monarch Beach
The Five Diamond-rated Waldorf Astoria Monarch Beach is the perfect blend of Southern California’s laid-back luxury and iconic True Waldorf Service. This sophisticated beach-house retreat offers a private beach club, three pools, oceanfront golf, luxury spa, unique coastal activities, and California cuisine.
Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel
The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel is a coastal paradise with a playful side. Stroll along winding ocean paths that lead to Salt Creek Beach, where crashing waves attract surfers from around the world.
11. SANTA BARBARA
Thanks to its ideal location on the Pacific coast with dramatic mountain views, Santa Barbara is often called the American Riviera. Santa Barbara is a fabulous incentive trip destination known for its Spanish architecture, relaxing spas, luxury resorts, and miles of pristine beaches. If Los Angeles is too familiar, escape to the foothills of Santa Barbara or travel up to Ojai for a secluded retreat.
The Ritz-Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara, combines the appeal of this coastal city with the beauty of its natural surroundings. Relax in spacious suites or indulge in the region’s abundance with locally sourced cuisine.
Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore
Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore sports Spanish Colonial villas and bungalows that invoke the same casual glamour that first delighted Hollywood’s power players in the 1930s. Go for a stroll along Butterfly Beach, spend the day lounging poolside at Coral Casino Beach and Cabana Club, or pay a visit to the award-winning spa.
Belmond El Encanto
Spread across seven acres of secluded gardens, Belmond El Encanto opened in 1918 and has been part of Santa Barbara’s social scene ever since. The resort is gleaming and glamorous, yet relaxed and low key. The kind of place that invites you to recline poolside, breathe in the ocean air, and sip a glass of crisp local wine.
Rosewood Miramar Hotel
Set on the American Riviera along one of Southern California’s most beautiful and exclusive coastlines, Rosewood Miramar Beach offers a captivating estate-style atmosphere and the finest leisure amenities.
Ojai Valley Inn
Ojai Valley Inn is a premiere Southern California luxury resort that gives incentive travel groups a secluded option away from LA. This hotel in Ojai, CA, features an award-winning on-site spa and golf course to help escape the city.
Always popular for wine and food; however, harvest season in September is usually high season, and resorts typically exclude groups. Group incentive travel can benefit from the shoulder seasons and achieve better value on the Napa experience.
Auberge du Soleil
Showcasing breathtaking views, Auberge du Soleil is the dream of French restaurateur Claude Rouas. Nestled within a terraced hillside amid 33-acres of heritage olive and oak trees, the hotel’s 50 contemporary guestrooms and suites effortlessly blend relaxed sophistication with understated elegance, earning a long-standing reputation as wine country’s most iconic luxury property.
Surrounded by rolling vineyards and picturesque countryside, Carneros Resort and Spa offers a private retreat that delivers a relaxed and luxurious quintessential Napa experience.
The Meritage Resort’s luxury Napa Valley accommodations welcome you with warm Tuscan-inspired décor. Offering exceptionally designed Napa hotel rooms and suites, this award-winning resort features custom furnishings and colors that evoke the earth, sun, and sky of California.
Four Seasons Resort Napa Valley
Opening early 2021, Four Seasons Resort Napa Valley will offer a mix of five-star guestrooms and private estates that can accommodate the most high-class VIPs. President Club Trips looking to impress elite individuals need to keep an eye on this new Napa Valley fixture.
Nearby Sonoma is also an option:
With one-third of each space dedicated to outdoor living, 130 bungalow-style guestrooms and suites blend contemporary influence with environmentally conscious design. Montage Healdsburg is a premium option for groups looking to stay as close to the vine as possible.
Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn
Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa offers exceptional accommodations in the heart of Wine Country, with guest rooms to suit every taste. The famous golf course treasured as a relic from the ‘golden age of golf’ is a must-play for club trip winners looking to hit the links.
Incentive travel groups that seek to be steeped in the great outdoors should try a one-of-a-kind glamping experience unlike no other in America’s wilderness. Paws Up Resort in Montana or Brush Creek Ranch in Wyoming blend the luxury of incentive-quality resorts with the freedom and immersion of being in the free range of the wild west.
14. PICK A BOUTIQUE
With most groups playing it safe at 4-star brands of Marriott, Hyatt, and Hilton or the 5-star Four Seasons and Ritz-Carlton, try something different and pick a boutique brand. But, be cautious of choosing a boutique that is too small to understand groups. Brightspot recommends the “incentive quality” resorts of Auberge, Belmond, Kimpton, Montage, Rosewood, and LHW (the Leading Hotels of the World). Expose your winners to something out-of-the-box and make new memories.
If your club trip can benefit from more bright ideas, download these 9 tips from the experts to improving an incentive travel program. If you have any questions or want to elevate your incentive travel program, feel free to drop us a line!
(Cover Image is Enchantment Resort and Mii Amo Spa by Enchantment Group)