The 20 Best Incentive Travel Destinations for 2020

If your sales incentive trip or president’s club trip seeks fresh ideas, it may be time to think of new incentive travel destinations. Our globetrotting experts put their heads together and selected their 20 favorite ideas for incentive trips, offering something new for 2020, 2021, and beyond.

This mix of cities, countries, and regions was chosen based on their incentive-quality hotels, authentic activities, cuisine, and bucket-list appeal. Keep an open mind and remember that airfare is getting more budget-friendly for some of the less-traveled routes on the list!

1. Umbria & Puglia – undiscovered Italy
Pugia best 20 incentive travel destinations 2020

For smaller groups looking for something a little more authentic than Rome and Tuscany, this hidden gem is called the “green heart” of Italy. Umbria’s cities hold tight to the past and remain more authentic and untouched than their more visited counterparts. Visit Perugia’s cliffside location to see the historic city from the top of an escalator, view the birthplace of St. Francis at Assisi, or go back in time completely along the streets of Gubbio, Spoleto, and Orvieto. Puglia hosts the same demographics but is more appealing for those who don’t need Rome and Tuscany so close in proximity. We would consider an Umbria/Puglia split for those looking to stray from the beaten path. All things considered, Puglia is relatively unburdened by tourism, even more-so than Umbria, and located in southeastern Italy. The “heel” of the peninsula is known for its amazing beaches, olive gardens, orchids, blue sea, friendly locals, and long sunny days, with an average of 300 sunny days per year.

2. Ireland – castles & green countryside
ireland castles & green countryside

The West of Ireland – home of Galway, Connemara, Mayo, Clonmacnoise, and Clare – is framed with a rugged coastline, peppered with peninsulas, ports, pubs, and people (how about that alliteration?). The countryside is home to some of Ireland’s finest evening entertainment and folk sessions, and it plays a little more authentic than the more tourist-friendly, Dublin and Killarney. Shannon airport offers a convenient way in and you’ll be greeted with the castle hotels, such as Adare Manor (pictured) which won the Virtuoso Hotely of the Year Award in 2018 after its 2-year renovation. Other castle hotels to impress the most well-traveled groups include Ashford Castle and Dromoland Castle.

3. Portugal – good value for your euro
best incentive travel destination Portugal

We’ve recently brought an incentive trip to Portugal that focused within Lisbon, Cascais, and Sintra. Attendees considered it one of their all-time favorites. Take your group on a historical tour to Penha Palace in the Sintra Mountains and Quinta de Regaleira or bike the Cascais (pronounced Kash-Ki-sssh) coastline, which offers a string of charming wineries. There are countless ways to “wow” participants with everything in reach. We recommend a minimum of four nights to make the most of your time in this dream destination. You can see a full program-guide for Portugal in this blog post where Kim outlines this bucket-list trip, complete with event ideas and activities.

4. Dubrovnik – second-tier Europe
Ljubljana incentive trip

With new flights opening up and airfare becoming more affordable, there are many European destinations that offer top-tier incentive quality for 2nd-tier pricing. Dubrovnik, Croatia and its historic walls, offer a glimpse of an immaculately preserved Renaissance city. Slovenia’s capital, Ljubljana, also offers an array of historical sites with a beautiful mountain backdrop (pictured). The Grand Hotel Union in Ljubljana is a historical site in itself residing at the doorstep of the historic city center and sporting beautiful Secession-era architecture. The Balkans offer an interesting mix of coastal activities with the Adriatic Sea and immaculate lakes scattered far and wide. It won’t be difficult to capture the attention of the well-traveled in the group with these hidden gems.

5. Iceland – proper northern lights & geothermal baths
iceland northern lights best incentive travel destination

Iceland has recently been trending on many incentive travel destination lists as an amazing change-of-pace that offers enriching sight-seeing opportunities and experiences. It’s home to some of the world’s most magnificent photo opportunities due to its spectacular scenery and provides the best spot on the planet to see the Northern Lights. Exciting and unique activities include swimming in the famous Blue Lagoon and bathing in a geothermal bath. You could have groups driving monster trucks over glaciers, ice climbing, or eating an Icelandic buffet on ice. You could even take your top performers for a private whale watching session, with the waters off Reykjavik providing a 99% chance of seeing these magnificent creatures, along with puffins!

6. Los Cabos – muy mucho 5-star resorts
Grand Velas Los Cabos

Los Cabos must have more 5-star resorts than anywhere else in the world. For many years, the accolades went to Auberge’s Esperanza, One & Only PalmillaRosewood’s Las Ventanas, and Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal. Recent openings include an Auberge Resort, Montage Los Cabo, The Cape, A Thompson Hotel, Le Blanc Los Cabos, and Viceroy Los Cabos. Plus Grand Velas Los Cabos (pictured) added a 5-star, 5-diamond all-inclusive. In Fall 2019, Zadún, A Ritz-Carlton Reserve, opens, and in late 2019, the Four Seasons opens its resort at Costa Palma up the East Cape 45 minutes. With multiple new openings, we foresee competitive, downward pressure on rates ahead.

7. The Caribbean – rebuilt, renovated, reopening

After Hurricanes Irma and Maria descended upon many Caribbean islands, the resorts have used the downtime, insurance settlements, and new investments to launch massive renovations in Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, St. Martin, Anguilla, and more. We anticipate these Caribbean islands bouncing back as “brand new” for 2020 and 2021 trips. With so many reopenings around the same time, there is a unique opportunity to experience a newly opened 5-star Caribbean resort at more affordable room rates.

8. West Indies – secluded island luxury
carlisle bay antigua incentive trip

With its all ocean-front rooms and 5-star experience, Carlisle Bay in Antigua (pictured) has always been a strong contender amongst incentive travel destinations and hasn’t skipped a beat in the midst of recent storms. Many St. Kitts & Nevis properties have all undergone recent renovations and several recent programs to Four Seasons in Nevis can attest to their commitment to the highest standard of quality. Park Hyatt St. Kitts is another excellent luxury option and full of Caribbean charm. If your trip requires a high-end, secluded Caribbean experience, we recommend considering the West Indies.

9. Baha Mar – 3 resort options in 1

After Atlantis dominated the Bahamas for years, the new Baha Mar development has multiple group options with the 5-star Rosewood, the contemporary SLS, and the gargantuan Grand Hyatt. With the creation of this mega-resort, budgets have been opened up for new programs looking for an all-in-one Bahamian experience. Casinos, golf, nightlife, fine dining, water sports, and many wildlife encounters, all within walking distance of each other make for a relatively stress-free incentive travel program that will please everyone. See our blog post that matches the top 8 Bahamian incentive hotels against each other in a playoff bracket!

10. Africa – sub-Sahara safaris

Listing almost an entire continent as one bullet point on the list may be doing it a disservice, but with historically lower demand than other options, we wanted to bring attention to this often-overlooked option on lists of incentive travel destinations. The appeal of Africa is apparent from an incentive travel perspective; it provides safaris, breathtaking landscapes, and a completely new experience unlike any your participants have seen before. However, the perceived risks and logistical effort has always been a wall that was difficult to climb for many incentive trips. Now with more flight routes, safer cities, and verified DMC cooperation, we’re seeing more programs seeking the adventure of something new! In fact, the Society of Incentive Travel Excellence named Rwanda as a top destination for incentive travel.

top incentive travel destinations

11. New Zealand – Lord of the Rings scenery

Auckland in the north and Queenstown in the south both have large incentive travel appeal with unique, local, and authentic experiences. Boat rides on steamships, sheep herding, world-class dining, top-class rugby matches, and visits to shooting locations from the Lord of the Rings are just the tip of the mountain of one-of-a-kind experiences you can find in New Zealand. Auckland offers stunning harbor views from the Sky Tower, Waiheke Island vineyard tours, and the Hobbiton movie set. Queenstown is smaller, but offers more unique activities, such as Milford Sound scenic cruises, bungy jumping from the birthplace of the sport, and Shotover jet tours. Diverse landscapes, incredible cuisine, and an endless menu of activities make planning an incentive trip to the “land of the long white cloud” a no-brainer.

12. Cusco – Machu Picchu & Peruvian culture

Found at the top of most people’s list of bucket-list destinations, Machu Picchu may have an unfortunate limit on its availability to the public in the near future. This makes it more important to visit Cusco now more than ever. However, don’t think you’re going just for the world wonder; Cusco has its own charms that deserve its fair share of the spotlight. The Plaza de Armas and the Cusco Cathedral, which towers above it, are their own UNESCO Heritage sites. In addition, the lively San Pedro Market allows travelers an opportunity to experience authentic Peruvian cuisine firsthand. The Belmond Hotel Monasterio, Palacio Nazarenas, and JW Marriott’s Palacio del Inka are all excellent hotel accommodations for your Cusco-bound group.

13. Malaysia – journey the Malacca Strait

On the note of once-in-a-lifetime adventures, Malaysia and a journey through the Malacca Strait via river cruise is an itinerary of ours we desperately wish to see more of in the near future. Snorkeling in Sabang Bay, riding elephants, and exploring hidden temples make this excursion an awe-inspiring experience that your attendees will cherish forever. Singapore makes for an easy egress point and offers modern luxury and amenities that are coveted amongst international incentive travel destinations.

14. Bora Bora – bucket-list worthy bungalows

French Polynesia may not be the easiest to reach, but those looking for an incentive travel destination completely unburdened by tourist traps and crowds can look to Bora Bora. Surrounded by teal lagoons and coral reefs, Bora Bora’s untouched majesty solidifies its position at the top of almost every bucket-list. From snorkeling with tropical fish to hiking a dormant volcano, to sleeping over the water on a stilted bungalow, there is no shortage of unique experiences awaiting your incentive travel group. The new Conrad Bora Bora Nui is getting rave reviews, while The St. Regis Bora Bora (where Nicole Kidman honeymooned to prove its luxury) and the Four Seasons Bora Bora have been wowing travelers for many years as well.

15. Deep South, USA – Lowcountry hospitality
charleston incentive travel destination

A trip through South Carolina’s Lowcountry is often a head-tilting choice for the uninitiated, but if you’ve been once, you likely feel the longing to return. There is a reason that Charleston was ranked the #1 city in the United States to visit by Travel & Leisure, after all. This city, as well as the region in general, epitomizes “southern charm” in every way; the cuisine, the hospitality, and the accommodations are all a step above the norm when it comes to domestic incentive travel destinations. We recommend the brand new Hotel Bennett for your stay in Charleston or Belmond Charleston Place for its traditional 5-star excellence. Alternatively, consider an incentive trip over at Montage Palmetto Bluff or down the coast towards Savannah for s’ mores. Amelia Island is another amazing option for those looking for a bit of history with their coastal journey, and its Ritz-Carlton and Omni resorts are southern beauties.

budget for incentive travel destinations

16. Big Island – say aloha to Hawaiian renovations

With big updates to some of the finest resorts in Hawaii, the Big Island has two reasons for you to keep coming back. Mauna Lani (pictured) focuses on a luxurious, authentic Hawaiian experience with the spotlight on culture, cuisine, and experiences that are unique to the Big Island. With a $100 million investment by Auberge Resorts, Mauna Lani feels like a grand opening. Featured on our list of Top New Incentive Hotels, The Westin Hapuna Beach Resort has a dedication to health and wellness with their recent renovation. Reinvigorate your incentive trip with their golf course set against a dark lava field and enjoy the finest guilt-free dining options on the island. The half-mile of golden crescent sand always lands Hapuna Beach on “best beach” lists. If you are thinking, “Our group already went to Hawaii,” Brightspot recommends visiting a different Hawaiian island every 3 years for varied experiences at top-ranked islands.

17. Whistler – great outdoors of Canada
banff and whistler make for incredible incentive travel destinations

Whistler is home to one of the largest ski resorts in North America, making it ideal for the winter sports enthusiasts in your group while retaining a high degree of incentive-quality hotels and amenities. For the more adventurous, Banff and Lake Louise in nearby Alberta, allow for a trip through a pristine national park that showcases the grand majesty of Canada’s landscape. Kayak across crystal glacial lakes, hike with a backdrop of whitecapped mountains, and relax back in the quaint, but accommodating town of Banff. To add a twist for more sophisticated groups, add a connecting trip on the Rocky Mountaineer train.

18. Festival Spots – dive deep into local extravaganzas

Festivals are a great way to simplify an incentive travel itinerary. Not only do they have mass appeal, but they can also take care of your activities and dining planning. Miami, FL’s South Beach Wine and Food Festival is an excellent option for foodies and culinary aficionados in your group. Austin, TX hosts one of the biggest festivals in the country with South x Southwest, a week-long event full of film, music, and comedy from both up-and-comers and established artists or tune into Austin City Limits Musical Festival. Change up the usual festival scene of warm weather and packed crowds with Quebec City’s Winter Carnival, featuring ice canoe races, ice sculpting contests, and plenty of parades in the snow.

19. Wild West Glamping – 5-star tents and dude ranches

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. An endless menu of activities during the day, like fishing, hiking, and horseback riding, followed up with a spa day and a 5-star restaurant reservation back at the resort, is a unique itinerary that can only be achieved at these premier glamping spots.

20. European River Cruise – exploring European villages

Convenient travel options don’t get much easier than a leisurely river cruise. Newer lines from luxury river cruise lines, such as Crystal Cruises, Viking River Cruises, or AMA Waterways cover Europe’s main arteries; most notably, the Danube and Rhine rivers. Smaller ports allow for easier access to the little, inland towns that big cruises can’t hit, making it the perfect experience for groups seeking a more intimate and authentic view of Europe’s heartland. You’ll be able to visit these towns in luxury with very little downtime, unlike a bigger cruise.

We’re here for you!

It is our pleasure to help the incentive travel industry and your incentive trip however we can. As always, feel free to send in your opinions or questions to info@brightspot.email. We’re happy to provide insight into making our content and your program the best it can be!

Helping pick out new incentive travel destinations is just one piece of many when building out your incentive travel program. Consider reading our step-by-step guide on starting an incentive trip or these 9 tips from our incentive travel experts to help improve your current trip. You can also estimate your trip’s budget on our incentive travel pricing calculator to play around with some “what-if” scenarios.

Thank you to all of our incentive travel gurus for their input and guidance with this list: Becky Barnett, Julie Blank, Michael Butler, Genny Castleberry, Kim Fox, and Mike May.