“52 Places to Go” with an Incentive Travel Twist

It’s one of the most popular travel pieces published each year that no doubt inspires countless trips: the New York Times has published their list of 52 places to go in 2023, with tons of fascinating selections making this year’s cut.

Many of these destinations, too, seem like perfect incentive travel destinations — and align with emerging incentive travel trends, too. Here’s what stands out for the SITE community. 

#1: Palm Springs, California, USA

What the SITE community has to say: “Greater Palm Springs is a hidden treasure that’s not so hidden,” says SITE SoCalmember Tammy Bucklin, also the associate director of sales for Visit Greater Palm Springs. “We are an incentive-friendly destination but are not always recognized as one. The options for accommodations and experiences are so varied, it truly meets any group’s needs.” 

Experiences are not limited to golf and signature events, Tammy says. Two of her top incentive favorites include the BMW Performance Center (where attendees can get their adrenaline-pumping with a day at one of only two BMW driving tracks in the country) and a Jeep Tour to the San Andreas Fault. 

“Take it off-road,” says Tammy, “and explore the twisted and tormented landscape of the San Andreas Fault.” She also pointed out these tours are good opportunities to learn about Native cultures, plants, animals, and geology. 

Also good to know: This is a destination with the potential to take your incentive literally out of this world, with the New York Times write-up also calling out the rise of astrotourismin the region. 

They specifically pointed to Joshua Tree National Park’s status as a designated International Dark Sky Park, officially one of the darkest skies in California (Tammy from SITE SoCal also included this as a final pro tip, with a suggestion totake an evening Jeep tour “as another see the stars in all their glory”). It all certainly sounds inspirational to us! 

#2: Kerala, India 

What the SITE community has to say: Rajeev Kohli, a past SITE president and Joint Managing Director of Creative Travel India is also the winner of two SITE Crystal Awards for programs in this destination — putting him “way ahead of the curve,” as he proudly shared. 

Says Rajeev: “Kerala is a magnificent destination blessed by Mother Nature. It’s polar opposite of the traditional forts and palaces of the North. 

Kerala allows for a truly elegant experience — its lush green landscapes chill the mind. The variety of cuisine is filled with the freshest seafood. The centuries-deep history tells of times when this region commanded the ancient Spice Route. 

Things we love to deliver for incentives — a relaxing cruise on the fabled backwaters of Kerala; a hearth-thumping re-enactment of the famed Kerala Snake boat races; and of course, Ayurveda, the 5,000-year old practice of extreme wellness that offers the ultimate in pampering.”

Also good to know: “We travel to immerse ourselves in other cultures,” says the New York Times. We couldn’t agree more, with authentic cultural experiences increasingly important no matter the incentive destination. The NYT also points to this Indian state’s beaches, backwater lagoons, cuisine, and rich cultural traditions, including an award-winning regional festival that supports village life and local communities in the destination. 

#3: Louisville, Kentucky, USA

What the SITE community has to say: “Louisville is an entirely different type of Southern,” says SITE SoutheastChapter President Suzanne Strealy, on behalf of the chapter. 

“With a booming bourbon renaissance, iconic attractions, world-class hotels & venues and a renowned culinary scene, Louisville is an experience like no other city. SITE Southeasthosted our 2022 Education Summit here and we were all pleasantly surprised and delighted to what this beautiful city has to offer our incentive groups.”

Also good to know: While flagging its status as a destination that often flies under the radar, the NYT acknowledges the expected city staples — its “bourbon-fueled convivial spirit,” a 19th-century park system designed by Frederick Law Olmsted (who also designed Central Park, Boston’s Emerald Necklace, and many other US public park systems), and the 150th running of the Kentucy Derby taking place in 2024.

However, it also highlights Louisville’s “thriving” LGBTQ scene, noting that two community centers are set to open this year — that could make excellent CSR partners for groups eyeing the destination for their next incentive. 

#4: Salalah, Oman

What the SITE community has to say: Al Baylasan Essa, Head of Incentives and Meetings for the Oman Convention Bureau (a sponsor for this year’s SITE Global Conference and a 2023 strategic partner) says Salalah is a destination where “Incentive groups can immerse themselves in an authentic Arabian experience.”

Furthers Al Baylasan: “Salalah scores with its scenic diversity and unspoiled nature. Incentive groups will find a comprehensive infrastructure for a wide variety of events. Beautiful nature and wide-open spaces, while preserving heritage and precious wildlife, will be the backdrop for your events. 

Known as the Land of Frankincense, Salalah, located in Oman’s southernmost region, hosts many unique attractions, making it the perfect incentive destination since it appeals to adventurers and new experiences. In the summer months, when most of the Arabian Peninsula experiences soaring temperatures, Salalah experiences the monsoon season, bringing lush greenery, cooling rains, and pleasant temperatures.”

Also good to know: The Middle East continues to be an exciting emerging destination for incentives. But a destination that also treats qualifiers to gorgeous natural beauty? Seems like a winner to us! 

“Seaside Salalah” offers participants a chance to experience an area of immense natural beauty in the Persian Gulf States, according to the New York Times. Lush green landscapes, sunshine and sea-infused breezes, and tranquil beaches with crystal-clear waters are just some of what await, as both sources have teased. 

#5: Charleston, South Carolina, USA

What the SITE community has to say: SITE CEO Annette Gregg shared some of the inspiration she soaked in during her time in Charleston. 

SITE members will get to read her full piece in our first February 2023 edition of SITESource, but Annette writes in part, “I was drawn there by stories of cobblestone streets and oak-filled parks, and the parts of American history that can only be found in the deep South … But even more important, experiencing different cultures can help us understand and appreciate them better. This is the gift this trip to Charleston gave me: perspective.”

Also good to know: Firmly established as a solid option for US-based organizers looking to source domestic incentives,Charleston is certainly an increasingly diverse destination. 

The NYT cited plans by the Charleston tourism board to launch “a comprehensive guide to Black-owned businesses to elevate the overlooked successes of creative locals” this year. We’d encourage incentive planners to tap into this resource as part of sourcing equitable, inclusive incentive programs.

Written by

SITE Staff


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