by Lisa A. Grimaldi | November 01, 2016

The winners of SITE's annual Crystal Awards, which honor the best incentive programs in the industry, were announced at a lunch held at the Westin Playa Bonita in Panama during SITE's Global Conference, which took place Nov. 4-8. Following are details of the award-winning events.

Award: Excellence in Incentive Travel: Latin America
Winner: Argentina Travel Partners (ATP DMC) for "Client Company 30th Anniversary"

As this ATP client's needs grew, so did their incentive travel program: The 30th anniversary event included more than 1,000 participants. To give guests a wholly Argentine experience, ATP painted a picture of its culture through music, wine, tango and celebration. A champagne welcome included a surprise flash mob and an Evita lookalike on a balcony above singing "Don't Cry for Me Argentina," followed by a dinner that took attendees on a journey back to the 1800s for demonstrations of empanada making, gaucho dancers/guitarists, celebrity chefs and refreshment stations stocked with local wines. As the Argentine flag anthem, Aurora, played, acrobats presented a high-flying version to wow the crowd. After a jubilant confetti shower, the "Happy Anniversary" toast by the company's CEO provided an emotional ending.

 Award: Most Impactful Effort Toward Corporate Social Responsibility as Part of an Incentive Program
Winner: BCD Meetings & Events for "Goodyear Champion 2016"

Goodyear recently combined its Latin America and North American regions into one: the Americas. The goal for this annual incentive trip, which took place in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, was to reward and connect team members from across the region. For the first time ever, a CSR component was integrated into the program to bring the team closer together and to positively impact the lives of the local community with a lasting contribution: a new playground for a local school in need.

The CSR initiative demonstrated best practices by recycling used tires and repurposing them as a jungle gym and playground for the school. The results are tangible: 1,000 children have a playground where they can be active, promoting health and well-being. 

The CSR component exceeded all expectations. It created an opportunity outside the corporate setting for employees to connect in a meaningful way and form friendships that still remain after the end of the program. The engagement among associates during the program translated to engagement back at the office, creating the unified team that Goodyear wanted. It also increased brand value in the region, as it demonstrated collaboration between the brand and consumers to improve the quality of school amenities in the community. The return on investment was substantial considering customer satisfaction, with an overall approval rating from participants of 99 percent.

 Award: Excellence in Incentive Travel: Africa/Middle East
Winner: Walthers Destination Business Solutions Africa for "XV1 Top Distributor Program"

Cementos Moctezuma, a Mexican producer of cement and concrete products for the construction industry, conducts an annual incentive program for its internal staff and distributors. While the global trends are for shortened programs and staying closer to home, the program demonstrates that an exceptional incentive travel experience -- even a nine-night program to a destination more than 24 hours away -- can motivate spectacular results.

Working closely with a local agency and Walthers Destination Business Solutions, the company selected a nine-night program covering three regions and four countries: South Africa, Zambia, Botswana and Zimbabwe. Participants spent four nights at Cape Town's Table Bay Hotel, followed by two nights on safari at 13 lodges located in three South African regions. The trip concluded with a three- night stay in Zambia at the Royal Livingstone Hotel overlooking the Victoria Falls on the banks of the Zambezi River, during which participants also visited Botswana and Zimbabwe. 

The primary objective of the annual incentive program is to drive sales growth and market share with both the internal staff and distribution partners. The success of the program is clearly demonstrated by record results: a 20 percent increase in gross sales, plus a 5.5 percent increase in gross margin, resulting in a 36.6 percent increase in earnings. The company believes the incentive program to Africa was a major factor in the motivating both the staff's and distribution channel partners' extraordinary performance.

 Award: Best Destination-Based Experiential Incentive Travel Program
Winner: Distant Frontiers for "The Desert Experience"

When a client wanted to offer a "wow experience" for 30 top directors, destination management company Distant Frontiers selected Jodhpur, India, for its diverse landscape, delicious cuisine and rich cultural heritage. Throughout the five-day trip, Distant Frontiers chose accommodations and activities that took advantage of every aspect of this unique destination and ensured that each day unfolded as a surprise to participants in order to meet the client's goal of offering a truly out-of-the-ordinary experience.

With the city of Jodhpur as home base, participants explored the vast Thar Desert and visited the rural communities that surround the city. The adventure began as participants drove in 4x4 Jeeps to a luxury campsite, where they were treated to sunset camel rides and cocktails in the desert. Opportunities to venture into the countryside and experience local communities gave participants a taste of the local culture and cuisine, while traditional kabelia tribal dancers and soulful Sufi musicians entertained the group throughout their experience. The program concluded with a magnificent gala dinner on the ramparts of the Mehrangarh Fort overlooking the city. Participants were given traditional Indian clothes and glasses of champagne, and were escorted in a procession led by the Royal Marshall, horse lancers, camels, fire torch bearers, dancers and drummers.

While many of the participants had traveled to India previously on business, the inspiring program left them with a new impression of the destination and was described as "one of the most incredible incentives they had ever been on." The unique and authentic experiences helped the team to bond and collaborate while creating experiences that would last a lifetime. 

 Award: Most Effective Incentive Marketing Campaign
Winner: ICP Group S.A. for "Daimler Trucks Discovery"

To increase Mercedes-Benz Poland's truck sales and bolster dealers' motivation, ICP Group S.A. created an action-packed marketing plan and incentive trip to Brazil geared to the core demographic -- young men ages 30-40. The program increased sales by 15 percent in 2015, and more than 95 percent of participants said they were more engaged with the company afterward.

The yearlong program included monthly cash prizes and quarterly vouchers, with the top prize of a trip to Brazil with activities including bike rides along the famous Copacabana and Ipanema beaches, Hawaiian canoe tours on Guanabara Bay, surfing classes with professional surfers, morning jogs along Copacabana and a taste of local sports culture with "foot volley" classes taught by a Brazilian trainer. 

Using a Mercedes-Benz TV Channel, the ICP Group created a monthly motivational broadcast featuring amazing places that the winners of the incentive trip were going to visit, including Maracana stadium, a well-known samba club and a local restaurant where the chefs prepare churrasco. Along with personal text messages to participants and fun gamification tracking sales throughout the year, the ICP Group built a robust motivation program. 

 Award: Excellence in Incentive Travel: North America
Winner: Maritz Travel for "Summit 2016"

Despite a sudden location change to London, Maritz Travel had to ensure that its financial-services client's annual summit was above and beyond any trip the well-traveled guests had previously experienced, as well as appeal to several generations. The team worked ceaselessly to plan a program that garnered a score of 93.5 percent by participants who were "very satisfied" or "extremely satisfied."

While keeping in mind that the company uses its annual summit to educate, reward, surprise and delight its top-tier producers, Maritz Travel planned two new opulent evening activities and a variety of off-site excursions, ranging from a castle tour with afternoon tea to a pub crawl. For the opening night, guests were transported by traditional double-decker bus to the Natural History Museum for a steampunk-themed party in the "Great Exhibition: London's 1851 World's Fair" exhibit; guests were met by magicians, jugglers and other eccentric characters in a space outfitted with period chandeliers and large plush leather couches. The theme of the closing event, "A Royal Affair," tapped into the participants' fascination with the Royal Family; it took place at the Grosvenor House Royal Affair Great Room, in London's Mayfair district overlooking Hyde Park. 

Throughout the entire trip, every detail was customized to make the guests feel as if they were entering a new world, specific to London and its history.

Maritz Travel considered every detail of the summit -- from lighting to décor, to the over-the-top entertainment, including the London Ballet Co.-- to create a masterpiece for a diverse group of well-traveled, top-tier producers.

 Award: Excellence in Incentive Travel: Europe
Winner: Spaintacular, Madrid, Spain, for "All American 2015"

This "All American" celebration for an insurance company client hoped to provide two waves of 450 participants with five days and four nights in Barcelona, Spain, that they would never forget. The peak point of the program was an expansive and decadent "Gaudi Dreaming Gala Dinner," which was the perfect opportunity for celebrating the client's corporate identity.

To accomplish the client's goals of energizing, motivating and encouraging the members to sell the client's product line in the coming year, Spaintacular, with help from SEI Meetings & Incentives, created an event and gala that one member described as "the best of the best." With careful attention to décor and ambiance, the "Gaudi Dreaming" dinner featured ballrooms with mosaic elements, candelabras, lush floral arrangements and shimmering scenic pieces. After dinner, the main ballroom became a unique dance club, with music and entertainment provided by a jigsaw fiddler, a water glass harpist, the String Ladies Quintet and the Cyber Flamenco, and closed out with a disco party with DJ Geena and light dancers led by a "mirror ball man." A night of sparkle and dazzle provided the perfect way for the client to deliver a message of thanks to top performers.

With professional photos and a mobile app, this event continued to motivate the client's employees for a full year.