How I was Bitten by the Incentive Travel Bug
Corporate Incentive Travel explores a variety of topics to help companies boost the ROI from their incentive travel initiatives and sales incentive trips. Corporate Incentive Travel offers:
- strategies for using incentive travel to stay “ahead of the curve” and get the jump on the competition by discovering products, services and enhancements that companies can introduce to their market back home
- destination profiles for (including Canada, Jamaica, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Oman, Japan, Singapore, and Malaysia)
- unique activities for corporate events
- updates and highlights about the corporate incentive travel industry in our volatile economy
My Journey Took me to Canada
I was bitten by the travel bug long before I can even remember. It’s really quite simple. I spent the first few years of my life in Jamaica in Port Maria. As a toddler, I boarded an airplane with Uncle Tony, a close family friend. Sadly, he passed away in 2009. We travelled from my native Jamaica to join my parents in Montreal where my father was studying at McGill. So, it’s not surprising that travel was a comfortable thing for me to do.
It Continued in Montreal
In high school, one of my teachers (her name escapes me at the moment) mentionned that her daughter, a university student, was working as an Air Canada flight attendant. That stuck with me and, as soon as I was old enough. I applied to Air Canada. The first year that I applied, they weren’t hiring but the second year, I was in luck. It really wasn’t hard. A couple of interviews followed by a medical examination and I was in.
It was the summer I turned 21 and it was an exhilarating experience. After 6 weeks of training which even included courses in make-up, walking and grooming at the Constance Brown modelling agency, I began the adventure of a lifetime. I worked domestic flights from coast to coast in Canada, travelled all over the USA and went to Europe for the first time. It was to Brussels and we were a juniour crew all on reserve. What a blast we had touring the ancient sites. I remember it as it were yesterday. The chocolate shoppes on street corners, the first time I tasted steak au poivre and the wonderful people we met.
That is how I spent 2 glorious summers, travelling to places like Port of Spain, London, and Paris where I had profiteroles au chocolate for the first time and savoured the delights of strawberries and cream in the Bois de Boulogne. I remember working a flight to Frankfurt and having a glorious layover in a picturesque town called Mainz (Update: I didn’t get a chance to return until May, 2012 so I finally wrote an update).
I was with a senior crew that time so a lot of my exploration was on my own. After all, even if my crew was going to be in London or Germany a few times a month, this might be my last opportunity to see those places. While they rested at the hotel, I took a cruise to Bacharach, a town that was over 1000 years old. (I returned to visit in May, 2013 and blogged about it.) That’s when I learned to be comfortable and explore foreign destinations on my own. I’ll come back soon and post some of my photos from those 2 summers after I scan them.
….But it Started in Jamaica
After graduating from University of Illinois, I went back to Jamaica. I hadn’t lived there since I was a child. Working as a social worker at the University Hospital of the West Indies, going to drama school at night and exploring Jamaica, created many fond memories and special experiences for me. Especially when my grandmothers were alive, our family returned very often over the years and this provided many opportunities for discovering the beauty of the island and its various attractions that I share with you in:
Jamaica Incentive Travel Articles
- Incentive Travel in Jamaica: Giving Your Team the Essence of Jamaica
- Jamaica Incentive Travel: Top 10 Ways to Enjoy the Water When you Finish Lying on the Beach
Jamaica Incentive Travel Links
It Took me to Toronto
When I moved to Toronto, I planned to stay only for a few years. One never knows how life will unfold. I’ve never lived in Montreal since I left but I do visit my mother and other relatives and friends regularly.
Canada Incentive Travel & Team Building Articles
- Montreal Incentive Travel & Corporate Events – Exploring Montreal’s Historical sites
- Incentive Travel in Toronto
- Winter Team Building in Toronto & Unexpected Cool Places
I did my MBA part-time after at York University’s Schulich School of Business while working at a very demanding job. How did I get through it? Twice a year I would find a beach somewhere and collapse. As soon as I was rested, I’d view all the sights and hideaways where the local people like to go.
When I started designing training and development sessions, my passion for travel automatically found it’s way into my work. The first simulation I ever designed was when I was at graduate school. I created a simulation of an airline flight to convey lessons about client care. I also started offering vacation breaks and energizers (travel videos) and music from around the world during all of my workshops. So, it’s not surprising that years later that, after a stint at corporate life, and after I set up my own business, I again seized the opportunity to travel. It was unexpected. In the fall of 1999, I received an e-mail asking if I would be interested in moderating a seminar in Kuala Lumpur. I had never been to Asia before but, since I grew up in Montreal’s downtown core and went to school with a lot of Chinese classmates like Elizabeth Lee, Carol Chan and her brother Kenny, and Henry Wong, I immediately said yes.
In January, 2000, a few days before the Chinese New Year, I got off the plane at KLIA to a city that was beautifully decorated with Chinese lanterns. I had to pinch myself to make sure that this wasn’t a dream. My first seminar was at Kuala Lumpur’s Regent Hotel and there were 65 delegates in attendance. I returned to Malaysia often and discovered magical places like Penang, Genting Highlands, the Cameron Highlands, Melacca, and my favourite, Kuching in Malaysian Borneo. I went on to conduct sessions in Singapore, Thailand, and India. After I started taking Japanese classes, I would travel to and from South East Asia via Japan. I would stopover and take the opportunity to explore Tokyo, Kyoto, Kamakura, and, of course, Mount Fuji. I particularly enjoyed my stays in traditional ryokans.
Asia Incentive Travel Articles
- Malaysia Incentive Travel: August in Asia
- Incentive Travel in Malaysia
- Singapore: The 1st Time and the Last
- Incentive Travel: Japanese Style
- Japan: Incentive Travel for all Seasons (Summer & Fall)
- Team Building Retreats in Japan
Asia Incentive Travel Links
On the way back to Canada I took advantage of the opportunity to have short stopovers in places like Paris, London, and Tokyo. It’s embarrassing to admit but when my travel agent suggested that I do a Dubai stopover on my way back from conducting a seminar in Mumbai in December, 2000, I had never heard of it. I was flying on Emirates so I took his advice “You MUST see Dubai”.
I arrived in Dubai after conducting sessions in Mumbai and I immediately fell in love with the place. It was the day after Ramadan began in 2000. It was around the same time that United Arab Emirates’ much beloved leader H. H. Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan was returning from having a kidney transplant in the USA. The city was beautifully lit up for Ramadan and there were giant photos of Sheikh Zayed everywhere. I spent the next few days in what felt like a futuristic Arabian Nights fantasy. There was a riding lesson at the polo club followed by a chance to relax and watch polo, shopping, a desert safari, and an enchanting Dhow dinner cruise on the Dubai Creek. When we floated by what I later learned was the Dubai Heritage Village, it was all lit up and I was in the process of sampling the most delectable chocolate goodies. It was again time to pinch myself as I was sure I was dreaming. When I returned, I never stopped talking about it and I was delighted that I eventually had a chance to work with some clients there.
United Arab Emirates Incentive Travel Articles
- Dubai Incentive Travel – New & Improved
- Dubai Incentive Travel: 2009 and Beyond
- Incentive Travel in Dubai
- 10 Tips for Successful Incentive Travel in Dubai
- Luxury Desert Team Building in Dubai
- Team Building in Dubai & Abu Dhabi
- Incentive Travel in Abu Dhabi
United Arab Emirates Incentive Travel Links
Finally, in October, 2007, I went with a group to the United Arab Emirates (Dubai, Abu Dhabi) and Oman. Not only was I reminded about why I have fallen in love with the UAE, my trip to Oman was truly a magical experience.
Oman has managed to preserve so much of the traditional Middle Eastern architecture against a backdrop of stunning mountain ranges. The views from mountain ranges like Jebel Shams and Jebel Akhtar are truly spectacular. As one travels throughout Oman, it’s like visiting one oasis after another. An extensive irrigation network has made it possible for rich foliage to grow on what was once rock and desert.
- Oman Incentive Travel – Summer in Salalah
- Incentive Travel in Oman – Of Sheiks, Jins & a Magic Book
- 10 Tips for Succesful Incentive Travel in Oman
- Oman Incentive Travel Guide
It was during my first trip to Oman that it occured to me that I had discovered so many luxurious resorts, enchanting hideaways, unique attractions, and truly stunning places in my travels that I could share them with my clients and other companies. What I could offer was something special and truly unique. Escorted, customized incentive travel itineraries that would give organizations a chance to introduce their teams to:
- each destination beyond the beach and the resort
- the unique and rich cultures and history of each destination
- new products, service offerings and business practices that they could introduce to their markets back home “ahead of the curve” to get a jump on the competition
In September, 2008, I received an e-mail from a representative for a seminar company in Cairo. He was in Toronto and interested in marketing my programmes. Eight months later I was stepping off the plane in Egypt. I had an opportunity to visit places that I had heard about for all of my life but never dreamed I would ever get a chance to see. The company arranged for me to see the Giza Pyramids and the Sphinx and to finally see the Tutenkhamun. (Years earlier, I had secured a ticket to see it in Toronto and was disappointed when something came up and I had to miss it). I had the pleasure of working with a great team and delivering one of my most unique business team building sessions.
That is how I was bitten by the incentive travel bug. It will be a pleasure to share what I have discovered along the way and I hope that it will help you chart your course around the world.
Anne Thornley-Brown is the President of Executive Oasis International, a Toronto based firm that regularly organizes team building, executive retreats and business meetings in Canada, the Caribbean (Jamaica, Anguilla, Antigua, Dominica, The Grenadines, St. Lucia), Asia (Malaysia, Singapore, Japan), the Middle East (Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Oman), and Egypt. They provide personalized service for corporate groups 10 to 75. Customized itineraries include team building, tours, recreation, galas, and special events.
In view of a court ruling changing regulations in Ontario, all travel and accommodation for 3rd parties now have to be booked by the client or through a TICO travel agent.
Anne Thornley-Brown, President Executive Oasis International
Finalist, Toronto Event Producer of the Year
at BizBash Readers’ Choice Awards