Luxury resorts arguably provide the ultimate pampering holiday, offering an experience that combines good old ìhammock by the beachî relaxation with modern-day luxuries in a convenient package. Today, resorts present an ideal choice for incentive groups seeking a fun yet relaxed atmosphere with a wealth of possibilities.
As joint managing director of Creative Travel, a destination management company (DMC) based in India, Rajeev Kohli says: "Incentives are all about doing the extraordinary. Good food and good accommodation are a given, but that is not enough. I find that different clients have different styles; every trip can be unique and different but the bottom line is the same – people need to be wowed. When we start work on a project, we start with a blank page and pen out the story from the brief."
Finding and choosing the perfect resort that answers the needs of a corporate incentive group seems like a daunting task, as properties all try to outdo each other in terms of facilities, location and "extra mile" service. In recent times, super-luxury resorts have established themselves as stalwarts in the resort incentives travel market. Many have sprouted up in the most exotic of locations, selling exclusiveness as their main marketing ploy.
The question arises: what is it about a resort that means it consistently draws incentive groups, no matter how remote its location? Below, we consider some of the world’s most distinctive resorts and look at what they offer.
SANCTUARY WITHIN THE CROWD
Hidden away in a quiet coconut plantation on the west coast of Phuket, Amanpuri – which aptly translates as the ìplace of peaceî – is an unassuming haven that boasts a sparkling white beach facing the turquoise Andaman Sea. However, while this Aman resort is truly a sight to behold, what sets it apart from the rest of the luxury properties in this busy tourist hotspot is the tranquillity of its surroundings.
With all-day dining in alfresco settings, an expansive library and even an Asian artefact gallery, Amanpuri is an ideal setting for a chilled-out resort incentive. Elevated walkways connect the pavilions to its private white-sand beaches and facilities. And this was, in fact, the first Aman Resort in the world to contain the flagship Aman Spa. In the early months of the year, torch-lit barbecues are held at the beach – weather and tide permitting. The resort also has an extensive variety of cruise experiences available, for adventurous groups who are keen to explore the many islands off Phuket.
Forty Thai-style pavilions are spread throughout the resort. Each one features a sala (open pavilion), a sun deck and dining terrace, a king-size bed and luxurious wash and dressing areas. Pool pavilions also include private pools. Luxury villa homes are also located next to the resort, many with oceanfront settings. Each villa consists of two to six Thai-furnished bedrooms, a private pool, and a live-in maid and cook attending to guests’ needs. These villas provide an alternative for groups seeking exclusivity, as they are situated some distance away from the rest of the resort.
Groups visiting Amanpuri are generally advised not to exceed 60 people, although bigger scale events can be held provided there are rooms available in the resort.
From breathtaking Jade Dragon Snow Mountain to Tiger Leaping Gorge, Yunnan’s stunning mountain scenery encircles Banyan Tree Lijiang. The resort itself is also picturesque, with the medieval traditional styling of the villas and suites providing a rustic charm to the entire establishment. Inside the resort, however, modern luxury furnishings fill the spacious rooms, and facilities like a gym and tennis courts are all available.
Lijiang is well known for its wonderful blend of mountain vistas and quaint Naxi villages scattered across the landscape. Banyan Tree Lijiang organises treks to nearby medieval towns and scenic natural formations such as Wenhai Lake, Xiang Gu Qing and Baisha village. Local guides lead these tours and ample time is allocated for self-exploration of the area. Some of the tours and treks even allow for travel by horseback or bicycle.
The resort can also customise programmes to suit the needs of a particular group. "[Banyan Tree] will include accommodation, spa, tours and a special event like a gala dinner or a special outing for specific groups," says Tracy Lui, Banyan Tree Hotels and Resorts’ regional director of public relations for Southeast Asia.
All suites and villas are built based on designs taken from the local Naxi culture, giving every room a distinctive traditional feel. The unique architecture incorporates ancient construction elements, like the famous entrance courtyards and pavilion roofs. The effect is to make guests feel like modern-day emperors, with heated jet pools, heated swimming pools, minibars and even barbecues available for their enjoyment.
Group size can be as small as 10 or 20 people and up to a few hundred.
Banyan Tree Lijiang
The spa at Ananda in the Himalayas spans 2,230 sqm and offers a vast menu of over 79 different treatments. Treatments are a fusion of the traditional Indian systems of Ayurveda and yoga with a more contemporary Western spa approach. Personalised therapies are also available, catering to the needs of each individual guest, and all prepared by a team of qualified nutritionists, physicians and therapists. The resort also offers a temperature-controlled outdoor lap pool and a state-of-the-art 16-station life-cycle gymnasium.
With the beauty of the surrounding Himalayan foothills (Ananda is located near Rishikesh in Uttarakhand), it’s little wonder that many activities incorporate the forests and hills around the resort. A visit to Rajaji National Park, home to tigers, leopards and many other animals, whitewater rafting on the Ganges River and a trek to Laxman Jhula are just some of the exciting nature-related activities that Ananda can provide for its guests.
Villas at Ananda in the Himalayas consist of either one or two bedrooms, a bathroom with private sauna and unhampered views of the swimming pool, a dressing room and a pantry. Styled simplistically, they tap into the serenity of the verdant surroundings to enhance the natural experience for every guest.
Group size should be small to preserve the natural peace of the resort for both incentive travellers and other guests – 20 or below is best.
Ananda in the Himalayas
LUXURY BY THE SEA
Eden Rock lies in St Jean Bay on the elite Caribbean island of Saint BarthÈlemy, and is surrounded by pristine waters. Epitomising island resort life, loungers and parasols await guests along the beach, although it can be hard to stay out of the inviting, ever-warm water. With Eden Rock’s French Beach Team always waiting to attend to guests’ needs, most visitors to the Eden Rock Beach barely need to lift a finger – a simple request ?results in a glorious massage right by the ocean's edge.
For more adventurous guests, Eden Rock Beach also offers activities like surfing, kayaking, paddleboarding and snorkelling with turtles on the coral reef. Priding themselves on throwing some of the ìworld’s best partiesî, events at the resort can be tailor-made to suit whatever concept the organiser creates.
Luxurious villas are retrofitted with custom-made Italian-style kitchens, the resort’s Glen Affric whiskey bar boasts 40 different whiskeys, and there’s a swimming and spa pool, private parking and private access to immaculate beaches. Guests also get a choice of cars at their disposal and 24-hour butler service.
Standing out as a beacon of exclusivity, groups should be kept as small and intimate as possible, although groups of up to a few hundred can be accommodated as well.
The One&Only Cape Town is an urban chic resort that features celebrity chefs, Cape Town’s most sophisticated spa, and inspirational views of magnificent Table Mountain from its enviable location at the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront.
The resort acts as an ideal gateway between the South African city’s exciting nightlife and exotic offerings like wildlife parks, vineyard visits and stunning beaches. Activities include mountain climbing on iconic Table Mountain and its surrounding peaks, air adventures like skydiving, hang-gliding and paragliding, and diving just off Cape Peninsula. For the even more adventurous, there are also aquariums that offer shark cage diving.
According to group and events manager Helen Weber, the resort can also arrange special activities for incentive organisers, including hosted activities like Harley-Davidson rides around the peninsula, vintage car joy rides, yacht cruises, full day spas for the whole group and even a cheetah petting session.
The One Penthouse atop the opulent Marina Rise block provides incomparable luxury and breathtaking 360-degree views of Table Mountain and legendary Robben Island. Dubbed simply "The One", this exclusive property features four bedrooms, a dining room, a study room, a state-of-the-art kitchen, two outdoor swimming pools, a wine wall, a fully equipped gym and sauna. Guests of The One Penthouse also have unlimited access to all facilities offered at the resort.
From 30 to 160 people can be accommodated as a group, although anything above 10 rooms is automatically classed as a group.
FASHION DOWN UNDER
If the Palazzo Versace were located in Beverly Hills, no one would think it out of place. Instead, it lies on Queensland’s gleaming Gold Coast, an iconic super-luxury resort that houses Australia’s only "water salon". This re-creation of a cool cabana oasis within a beach scene offers Palazzo Versace Cabanas that complement a wide range of Pool Salon services, providing the ability to quickly slip away from the poolside area into a more intimate and private luxury experience.
The concept of this majestic establishment is to match the vision of Gianni Versace with super-luxury facilities to create an extraordinary resort experience. The glamorous lifestyle is accentuated with its fashion theme – a private marina sits just outside the resort and provides instant access to waterways and the Pacific Ocean, while inside the hotel there are top-class beauty outlets like a boutique branch of the famous luxury hairdressing brand Oscar Oscar Salon, and the A-list Amy Jean Eye Couture Salon.
The luxurious condominiums in Palazzo Versace are fully furnished and equipped with world-class entertainment systems, wifi access, a fully operational kitchen, a heated plunge pool on the private terrace, private laundry facilities and a private spa within the main bathroom. The units also offer guests a spectacular rooftop terrace with a barbecue or a private spa bath, and of course stunning views of the Gold Coast. Joint bookings of at least 10 rooms can be made, but the whole resort (200 rooms) can be booked if prior notice is given.
One&Only Cape Town
• Guests arrive and are served a welcome lunch on the Vista Deck, before checking in outside the Vista – additional guests arrive throughout the afternoon and evening.
• Transfer to The Hussar Grill in Rondebosch for a steak and seafood dinner before heading back to the resort’s Vista Bar & Lounge for drinks and conversation.
• Breakfast is served in the hotel before guests are brought to the affluent Camps Bay area for a day of sightseeing.
• Seafood lunch is served at the Ocean Blue Restaurant, followed by a sightseeing tour of the city, before returning to the resort for a short rest.
• Kitima Restaurant is the location for a fabulous Asian-style dinner before returning to the Vista Bar & Lounge for drinks and conversation.
• Start the day with the Dune Quad Experience, riding quad bikes along many tracks, trails and specialist courses. Lunch is provided during the excursion.
• Return to the resort for a short rest, ?then transfer to Table Mountain, Cape Town’s most iconic attraction, for a sightseeing trip.
• Dinner is served near the Zip Zap Dome, and drinks are available at the Vista Bar & Lounge on returning to the resort.
• Start the day off with a trip to Chapman’s Peak, with breathtaking sights and scenery, followed by a visit to the legendary Cape of Good Hope, which houses an extremely diverse ecosystem.
• A seafood lunch is served at the Black Marlin Restaurant, followed by a trip to the popular Boulders Beach, where guests can observe the magnificent African penguins up close.
• After a short rest, dinner is held at Nobu restaurant within One&Only Cape Town, before drinks are served at the Vista Bar & Lounge.
ANANDA IN THE HIMALAYAS
BANYAN TREE LIJIANG
EDEN ROCK ST BARTHS
ONE&ONLY CAPE TOWN