In the upcoming summer issue of Colorado Meetings + Events, we look at the reawakening of incentive trips and sought opinions and examples from three well-known, Colorado-based destination management companies and a tourism office that has launched unique adventure travel options that go beyond the destination.
I had never experienced an incentive trip until recently when one of the DMCs interviewed asked me to take part in Luxury Ski Week, held March 31 – April 2 in Aspen. This partnership between Aspen-based RMC and St. Regis Aspen, along with other local partners such as Aspen Skiing Company, Aspen Sports and Aspen Outfitters, dates back to 22 years ago and started as a table full of participants. It has grown to approximately 100 attendees and their guests, including existing and potential clients and representatives from various Starwood hotels that serve the luxury market. The purpose is showing clients what an incentive trip or program in Aspen might look and feel like.
Not only did I enjoy the group and the destination, it was a trip loaded with experiences and wow factor and was a demonstration of how to deftly orchestrate such an endeavor. Here are a few things that caught my attention.
Fun activities prompt interaction – On the two main days, attendees could chose from skiing/snowboarding, dog sledding, clay shooting, fly fishing, snowmobiling and spa treatments. Not only did this introduce the group on a more casual level, it provided conversation during the afternoon après ski in The St. Regis’s lounge and evening activities. A participant book with head shot photos helped match up people met with their names and organizations.
Schedule something unusual – This was the Arquiste Scent Paired Lunch that uniquely combined the story behind the St. Regis’s Caroline’s Four Hundred scent introduced last year and a three-course meal that played off components of the scent. Carlos Huber, founder of the parfumeur Arquiste, and the chefs were on hand to talk about their creations. We each received a candle to bring home made from the St. Regis scent.
Showcase how to use venues – A clear tent was set up in the St. Regis courtyard for the opening reception, featuring colorful décor, delicious food stations, unique aerial entertainment, golden tattoos and more. The second evening was at David Burke Group’s new Aspen Kitchen, which provides a large open space and patio for groups, with the festivities moving downstairs to Burke’s new Rec Room lounge.
Don’t forget the wow – A private residence, the 21,000-square-foot Ski House, was booked for the final evening with a St. Regis culinary journey staged throughout the upper two floors featuring Latin, mountain, southern, East Coast and West Coast cuisine. Not only was it special to see a home of this level, the big surprise was the appearance of New Orleans musician Jon Batiste and his band Stay Human, band leader for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. They rocked the party, interacted with guests and continued to play in the St. Regis lounge.
Classy and useful gifts – In order to avoid scratching the wood floors in the home, attendees were fitted with slippers at the opening reception and were branded with our initials. A Yeti thermal coffee mug, Revo sunglasses, travel snacks left in the room the night before departure, and copper Moscow Mule mugs used at the house party were among the thoughtful gifts.
Book a photographer – Attendees appreciate professional photos to remember and share their experiences, plus partners get to use them in their marketing efforts and client outreach. My photos shown here certainly aren’t at the level of a pro but demonstrate there were many photo-worthy experiences that kept our smartphone cameras and social media posting active!