4 Great Incentive Destinations
4 destinations that will wow your winners
by Lori Cioffi, Loren G. Edelstein, and Lisa A. Grimaldi
Photographs (Tahiti): Peter PioppoSeptember 1, 2011
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After several years of forgoing exotic destinations, international locales in general and even, in some cases, any type of group travel, corporations once again are looking to motivate their top performers by offering the tantalizing allure of travel.
Following are M&C's picks for four unique, intriguing incentive destinations: Bulgaria, the former Soviet Bloc nation now transformed into a vibrant and dollar-friendly destination; Mexico's Riviera Maya, a burgeoning, gorgeous getaway; Tahiti, a tropical idyll that blends the best of French and Polynesian culture; and, closer to home, Whistler, British Columbia, a Canadian resort town with lots to offer adrenaline junkies and nature lovers.
RIVIERA MAYA, MEXICO> Why now? Just south of Cancún on the eastern shore of the Yucatán Peninsula, this 81-mile stretch of coastline was branded the Riviera Maya 17 years ago and now is enjoying a well-earned reputation as a unique and incredibly varied playground. With the Caribbean Sea on one side and protected jungles on the other, groups can explore a host of natural wonders, including gorgeous beaches, underground rivers and fascinating Mayan ruins rising from the brush. Man-made attractions include expansive theme parks, spectacular new hotels and a bevy of restaurants offering some of the best fish found on earth.
> Accommodations. Mayakoba is a luxury oceanfront development comprising three distinct properties, all interconnected via a string of lagoons. The two-year-old Banyan Tree Mayakoba presents a serene blend of Asian and Mexican architectural influences in its 107 villas (all with private pools) and 6,000 square feet of function space. Understated luxury permeates the Rosewood Mayakoba, with 128 spacious suites (also with plunge pools) and three dedicated meeting rooms, as well as a private dining room, Avicena, designed to resemble an ancient Mayan temple. The Fairmont Mayakoba offers 401 rooms and villas.
Among the area's all-inclusive options is the new Grand Velas Riviera Maya, a deluxe property with 491 suites in three distinct sections, called "ambiances," one of which is connected to the resort's dedicated 47,000-square-foot conference center.
Small groups might feel more at home at The Tides, a luxurious yet rustic retreat with 30 palapa-style villas and its own resident shaman.
> Activities. Nature has created a vast network of underground rivers and more than 100 cenotes (natural pools). Among the newest for visitors and most breathtaking is Rio Secreto. Small groups don wet suits, life vests and helmets for an educational and spiritual journey under a canopy of stalactites and stalagmites.
> Group venues. Attendees will enjoy exploring and shopping in Playa del Carmen, then meeting up at one of the many wonderful restaurants along 5th Avenue for dinner. La Casa del Agua offers fine international cuisine with an emphasis on fresh seafood and house-made breads and desserts.
For artistic Mayan fare in a sophisticated setting, Yaxche is a delicious choice.
> Day trips/extensions. A popular day trip includes an excursion to the ancient Mayan ruins of Tulum, then a visit to the nearby Xel-Ha eco-park and open-sea aquarium.
Groups can easily extend their stay in Cancún or journey to Chichen Itza, three hours south of Playa del Carmen.
> Contact: Riviera Maya Destination Marketing Office, (011) 52-984-206-3150 -- Loren G. Edelstein