Nothing quite compares to discovering a place first-hand. Taking in the aromas and flavours of local dishes, gazing at awe-inspiring landscapes, feeling the thrill of outdoor adventures, and listening to the vibrating sounds of traditional music. When it comes to uncovering the incentive destinations that will leave a lasting impression on top performers, the best approach really is to see it for yourself.
Twice a year, Destination Canada's Business Events team hosts its signature event — Incentive Canada — with this very objective in mind. The most recent one, held in February, brought together international incentive clients in charming Québec City for transformational winter adventures, culinary experiences and cultural activities. In hosting the event, the team gained plenty of insights into what resonates with today’s incentive winners. Here are their three top takeaways.
1. Wellness should be built into every incentive program.
Knowing that incentive winners prioritize wellness when celebrating their successes, the team at Destination Canada made this a central component of Incentive Canada. How? For one, they devoted an entire day to activities aimed at promoting guests’ wellbeing — giving them the chance to choose one of three offerings.
Some opted to give ice climbing a try at Montmorency Falls, which is home to one of the most-climbed ice routes in Québec. After they geared up, they experienced the ultimate adrenaline rush as they ascended a 120-meter glacier alongside François Guy Thivierge, a local climber who has conquered the highest peak of each of the seven continents and skied both poles.
Others chose a one-of-a-kind activity, called canot à glace (also known as ice canoeing). After a brief lesson, they set out for a teambuilding activity unlike any other as they paddled through large patches of ice on the mighty St. Lawrence River. “The activity was so unique to the region that I now have a winter sport story like no other to share with my friends,” said Stephanie Pohren, AVP, Sales – East Region, ITA Group.
The rest of the Incentive Canada group spent the day unwinding at the renowned Strøm Nordic Spa, where they had a signature treatment and relaxed in infinity pools overlooking the rushing waters of the St. Lawrence River.
Regardless of the activity they chose, attendees ended the day feeling recharged, energized and filled with stories to share. Of course, wellness takes many forms — and Destination Canada was sure to include ample downtime in the agenda to let guests take in the city’s compact neighborhoods, snow-covered cobblestone streets and European-inspired architecture at their own pace.
2. Incentive winners crave authenticity.
As the team developed this year’s Incentive Canada Winter program, one goal stood out: they wanted to immerse guests in unique, authentic and exclusive cultural activities. In other words, the kind of meaningful incentives that can’t easily be found outside of Québec.
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That’s what sparked the idea for an afternoon spent at a cabane à sucre, also known as a sugar shack. At the exclusive Érablière du Lac-Beauport, the group learned how Canada produces some 80 per cent of the world’s supply of maple syrup, while experiencing French-Canadian culture.
A local guide taught them the secrets to making maple syrup, a process that involves collecting sap from maple trees and boiling it. They then enjoyed a traditional and hearty meal consisting of maple syrup-infused meatballs, ham and split pea soup — while listening to a lively performance by the most famous traditional Québec musicians, Famille Painchaud. This was followed by a traditional dessert, called tire d'érable, in which maple taffy is drizzled onto snow and then rolled onto sticks.
“All of the activities were memorable. But if I had to pick a favorite it would be the sugar shack, as the experience was so well aligned to local Québec, super fun and, of course, delicious!” recalled Ami-Lee Benton, Account Manager at Ashfield Event Experiences.
The program also took place during one of the world’s largest winter festivals — Carnaval de Québec. The week-long event draws scores of people for its ice sculpting, colorful night parades and the famous ice canoe race. For guests, it opened the door to exclusive cultural activities, like its first-ever after-hours visit. Guests met the ambassador of the winter celebration, Bonhomme, a seven-foot-tall snowperson who epitomizes the region’s joie de vivre. Bundled up in his iconic red toque and arrow sash, he took them on a private tour of his famous ice palace.
3. Sustainability can be incorporated in creative ways.
More than ever, organizations are looking at how destinations integrate sustainability measures into their incentive offerings. According to a recent IRF survey, 80 per cent of respondents reported some pressure from clients to offer more sustainable options in meetings, incentives and incentive travel venues, and transport.
With this in mind, the group stayed at the iconic Fairmont Le Château Frontenac. While the hotel has earned a reputation for being dubbed one of the most photographed in the world, it’s also made strides in sustainability by becoming the first historic hotel in Canada to achieve carbon neutrality.
Sustainability goes beyond protecting the environment; it also means playing a part in supporting local cultures. One evening, Destination Canada hosted a captivating fireside chat with Jason Picard-Binet, Owner of Bastien Industries — which has been manufacturing moccasins since 1972. Jason explained how he works with the local Indigenous community in Wendake, who draw on traditional knowledge of their ancestors to make moccasins. He also shed light on the importance of the moccasin to the Huron-Wendat Nation. Gifts like these can help to preserve local cultures, while also leaving attendees with a greater understanding of diverse ways of life.
The final word: By integrating wellness, authenticity and sustainability into their incentive programs, organizations can deliver on today’s heightened expectations for meaningful rewards.
Canada is ready for your group’s next adventure
This is just one example of the type of impactful, inspiring and unforgettable incentive experiences that planners can host in Canada. From polar bear encounters in Churchill, to heli-yoga sessions in Banff, or dining on the ocean floor in Nova Scotia, there's a myriad of incentive trips waiting for your top performers..
Whether your focus is on overall wellness, learning about unique heritages and cultures, or thrilling your guests with wilderness adventures and wildlife, Canada’s diverse offerings represent the perfect opportunity to reward, reconnect and revitalize your team.
For impartial insights and advice, and to learn more about the incredible unique experiences available here, reach out to the experts at Destination Canada Business Events. They can help you personalize an unforgettable incentive program that will exceed your team’s expectations.