Top performers deserve to be rewarded with extraordinary experiences. Following, M&C has hand-picked some unique offerings in some of the world's most colorful destinations, from World Cup frenzy in Brazil to a royal ramble in the U.K.
Brazil and the FIFA World Cup
For fans of international football (aka soccer), the place to be in 2014 is Brazil, when the South American country will play host to the sport's holy grail, the Federation Internationale de Football Association World Cup (fifa.com). Twelve Brazilian cities will host 64 matches between June 12 and July 13; the tournament will kick off in Sao Paolo and culminate with the championship final at Rio de Janeiro's Maracana stadium.
Despite the retirement of its greatest star, David Beckham, in May, soccer remains a thrilling contest of skill, endurance and ever-shifting momentum, and even those who never paid much attention to the sport will find an important match, in an exotic locale, great fun to experience.
This vibrant country has plenty of other attractions and diversions to make for a one-of-a-kind trip.
Highlights. Sports travel expert Duane Penner, vice president, sales, for Winnipeg, Ontario-based Roadtrips Inc. (roadtrips.com), recommends basing incentive trips in Rio de Janeiro for the duration of the program (typically five days). Participants will be able to take in a match or two and go on day trips via private jet to one of the other FIFA host cities: Belo Horizonte, Brasilia, Cuiaba, Curitiba, Fortaleza, Manaus, Natal, Porto Alegre, Recife, Salvador and Sao Paulo.
Note: While tickets for matches are on sale, the FIFA lottery that determines team pairings and where they will play won't be held until December; Penner advises waiting until then to book, if attending a particular match is important to the group. He also recommends hiring a soccer expert (e.g., a former player or sports editor) to give the group a pre-game talk about the teams' histories, top players and potential game plans.
For down time, organize a private tour of Rio's top draws, including Sugar Loaf Mountain and the famous towering statue of Christ the Redeemer. Themed activities can include a night devoted to churrascaria, or South American-style barbecue, and a Carnival night, complete with costumes, floats and samba dancing. Firms such as Havas Creative Tours (havasbrazil.com) can make the arrangements.
Hotels. Among Rio de Janeiro's top incentive-level hotels are the 388-room Sofitel Rio de Janeiro Copacabana, 245-room Copacabana Palace and 245-room JW Marriott Hotel Rio De Janeiro.
Gifts. Get participants in the spirit of the sport with official FIFA World Cup T-shirts, gear and team souvenirs, available at store.fifa.com.
Contacts. Visit Brazil (visitbrazil.com); Rio Convention & Visitors Bureau (rcvb.com.br)
The British Royal Experience
London’s Kensington Palace, home of Kate, William and baby George
Fans of the British Royal Family, following the fairy tale-like wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton and Queen Elizabeth's Diamond Jubilee, now have a new reason to celebrate: the birth of William and Kate's son, George Alexander Louis, the future King George VII.
The general sense of euphoria surrounding these recent events, along with an itinerary that gives winners a glimpse into the lives of royals past and present, will result in a singular experience.Highlights.
Among the many ways to incorporate the royal theme into a London incentive program:
• A private visit before or after hours to the newly refurbished Crown Jewels exhibition at the Tower of London (hrp.org.uk
); also on display is the Lily Font, the baptismal fountain first used for of Queen Victoria's eldest child, Princess Victoria, which will again be employed for the new prince's baptism.
• A private tea, with a talk on the storied tradition of the afternoon ritual, in the Diamond Jubilee Salon at Fortnum & Mason (fortnumandmason.com
• A tour of the city's Mayfair district, as organized by destination management companies such as Spectra (spectra-dmc.com
), which goes behind the scenes at exclusive shops that enjoy a royal warrant (special status) to supply goods to the royal family.
Among private venues with royal ties and where group receptions or dinners can be held are Kensington Palace, home to Kate, William and baby George; Hampton Court Palace, a favorite of Henry VIII; Kew Palace, built in 1631 (for details on all three of the above venues go to hrp.org.uk
); and the Guards Museum (theguardsmuseum.com
), which traces the history of the regiments that make up Her Majesty's Household Division of Foot Guards.
Other activities include a visit to Windsor Castle (royalcollection.org.uk
) for a private viewing of the Queen's art collection, followed by a tour of Eton College (etoncollege.com
), where many male English royals have been educated. About an hour from London is the lovely seaside city of Brighton, where the Royal Pavilion (bit.ly/15rd97K
) is a magnificent palace built by King George IV; private events are accommodated.Hotels.
London offers a wealth of incentive-caliber properties, including the iconic 250-room Dorchester, long a popular hotspot for royals, and the 69-room Goring, which was the first hotel to get a royal warrant from the reigning Queen Elizabeth.Gifts.
Celebrate Prince George's birth with a selection of baby cookies in his honor, from famed supplier Biscuiteers (biscuiteers.com/shop/royal-baby-ti
); these delicious edibles make a perfect welcome or pillow gift for participants.
Contacts. Visit England (visitengland.com); London & Partners (londonandpartners.com)
Rio de Janeiro will be the center of FIFA World Cup activity.
Rio's gorgeous beaches and Sugar Loaf Mountain are among its top attractions.
Rio's Maracana Stadium will host the FIFA World Cup final match.
More than 450 beers, including several crafted by Brasserie du Bocq, are made in Belgium.
Mussels, typically steeped in beer or wine, are a delicious Belgian specialty.
The picturesque city of Bruges is top destination for groups visiting Belgium.
Germany's BMW Museum is a Munich landmark.
Car enthusiasts can take in historic autos at the BMW Museum.
The sleek Porsche Museum in Stuttgart pays homage to the company's luxury vehicles.
The Crown Jewels of the British Royal Family are on public display at the Tower of London.
Kensington Palace, where Prince William and his family reside, hosts private events.
The Royal Pavilion in Brighton was built by an earlier Prince George, Prince Regent (George IV).