Mexican Travel Spotlight: Top Destinations

Few locations rival the country of Mexico in the realm of incentive travel and corporate meeting planning. With an abundance of world class resorts offering thousands of square feet of meeting space and services ranging from renowned spas and championship golf courses to crystal clear waters along private beaches, Mexico is truly an enticing destination for any company to consider for its next reward trip.

Mexico is an ideal locale due to its close proximity to the United States, easing the hassle of transportation and facilitating a worry free trip for a firm with an inclination for organizing an international program. Throughout the years, JNR has enjoyed several successful incentive trips to Mexico, and with its hospitable accommodations and excellent weather, it is a destination that is continually on the radar for an increasing number of clients.

One of Mexico’s most outstanding benefits is its privileged coastline on both the Pacific and Atlantic Ocean, providing multiple options for 5-star lodging for both west coast and east coast companies with an eye for this beautiful country. JNR has been fortunate enough to operate programs in some of the most exceptional Mexican locations, highlighted by Puerto Vallarta, Cabo San Lucas, Cancun, and the stunning Riviera Maya.

Puerto Vallarta: Puerto Vallarta is a coastal town on the Bay of Banderas on the Pacific side of Mexico. Puerto Vallarta is a unique blend of landscapes for visitors to the city.  Hiking through a rainforest or lush jungle in the morning and relaxing on the golden sands  in the afternoon is all possible within the same day. Puerto Vallarta has become a tremendously popular vacation spot in recent years, as the number of gourmet eateries, boutique shops and remarkable accommodations has exponentially risen to accompany the colonial and historic vibe that the city is founded upon.

Cabo San Lucas: Los Cabos or Cabo San Lucas is a lively and energetic resort area on the tip of the Baja California Peninsula. With over 20 miles of white sand beaches, Cabo San Lucas is a wonderful destination for beautiful resorts and water activity aficionados. The turquoise blue waters and famous sea arches are a perfect location for sport fishing, wave running or whale watching, giving any company a plethora of options for its guest’s activities.  For the land dwellers, Cabo San Lucas has a lively night scene as well as multiple old town shopping experiences from vivacious downtown Cabo to the quieter San Jose del Cabo.

Cancun: Cancun is a world famous tourist destination on the Yucatan Peninsula that does not disappoint with its glamorous beaches, first class all inclusive resorts, modern attractions, and exuberant nightlife. Cancun has been on the map as a gorgeous destination year round with its ideal weather and surplus of distinguished hotels and spas. While it is known for being a spring break oasis, Cancun has a multitude of space for higher end travel and a large airport that allows for ease of travel in and out of the United States, as well as its proximity to the luxurious Isla Mujeres and historical Chichen Itza.

Riviera Maya: The Riviera Maya is one of the most beautiful stretches of coastline in the entire country of Mexico. Straddling Highway 307 along the Caribbean Sea, the Riviera Maya encompasses some of the most striking locations including Playa del Carmen, Tulum, Xel-Ha, and Xcaret which boast arguably the best beaches in the world.  The Riviera Maya also includes the Island of Cozumel, which is celebrated for its reef where snorkeling and scuba diving adventures abound. The Riviera Maya is a first-rate location for international programs as this shoreline hosts more all inclusive resorts than any other region in the country and is close to the ruins of ancient Mayan civilization.

Mexico is a year round playground for sunshine and adventure, and in recent years it has become a mecca for corporate travel. JNR is no exception and has been going south of the border for both large corporate meetings and action packed incentives as Mexico meets multiple needs when planning any type of program. The international value for the domestic price tag cannot be beat, and Mexico continues to dazzle its guests, leaving any visitor to the country wanting to come back for more of its hospitality. For inquiries into setting up your own corporate program to any of these fantastic sites, visit JNR Inc for more information.

By JNR Incorporated

Written by Andy Tallon

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JNR Incorporated is a results-based, globally recognized leader that specializes in creating custom travel, meeting, event, prepaid card and merchandise programs that motivate, engage and inspire the employees, customers and channel members of our clients. We have over 30 years of experience working with Fortune 500 companies of many diverse industries. Our programs are tailored to fit the specific needs of marketing, sales, management and human resource professionals. The unique solutions we apply are measurable and proven to increase performance, loyalty and revenues.

Photo: “Puerto Vallarta” by Harvey Barrison is licensed under CC By 2.0

Group Travel is the Number One Motivating Tool

Motivational travel—including group travel, individual travel and family travel—may not be a household term to the average person, but its power has been well established in the business world for over a decade. The Society for Incentive Travel Excellence (SITE) defines it as “…a powerful business tool for helping organizations achieve key business objectives.” At the root of it all, target audiences (employees, dealers and customers) are inspired to perform at a higher level or remain loyal in exchange for a travel incentive award.

Successful motivational travel programs will maximize Return on Investment (ROI) and Value on Investment (VOI) for the company and Return on Experience (ROE) for the participant.

ROI measurements are based on financial gains for the company. It can be measured by subtracting the expenses of the investment from measurable gains from the investment and dividing again by the overall cost.  Like any investment, the company expects to see a sizeable increase in revenues for a relatively small cost when implementing a motivational travel program. Investing dollars in travel programs will be a wise choice for a company if this decision results in large gains in incremental performance and loyalty by the employee, dealer or customer.

Since tangible returns are not always apparent, VOI is another measurement that considers return benefits associated with motivation travel programs. Although VOI is difficult to define, like ROI, it can be extremely valuable to a company. Improvements in relationships, communication, loyalty and innovation are all good examples of metrics used to define VOI.

ROE on the other hand is all about intangible benefits for the recipient of the travel award. The participant must determine that the experience they will earn is worth the additional effort that is required to qualify and compete for the ultimate prize. For the trip of a lifetime, participants often go to great lengths becoming very competitive amongst their colleagues. Delivering experiences that are memorable yet cost-effective is the challenge for the travel planner.

A recent study conducted by SITE and IMEX published in The Meetings Magazines in May 2014 surveyed participants from more than 16 countries and found that group travel leads the list of utilized motivation tools. The top motivators were listed in terms of the percentage of respondents who used them in their programs.

  1. Group Travel – 62%
  2. Recognition – 44%
  3. Training – 40%
  4. Individual Travel – 31%
  5. Family Travel – 22%

Other trends of note in the motivational travel industry:

  • Supplier relationships are crucial – 83% said that past experiences and relationships with suppliers strongly affected their provider selection.
  • Top management and purchasing departments are involved in buying decision – 59% said that one single person did not make incentive travel decisions but decision makers were typically in upper-management. Procurement departments influence 52% of buying decisions.
  • Price and lead time are key factors in decisions – 65% said price was the main reason for a bid being lost to a competitor and 48% thought that lead time affected submission quality.
  • Trade shows are great places to find service providers – 81% of providers and 79% of users said that they attend trade shows to find new suppliers or meet with existing ones.

The value of incentive travel awards has been proven time and time again. According to SITE 88.6% of those who earned travel rewards agree that it made them feel appreciated, 72.4% said their loyalty increased towards their employer, 77% of winners said incentive travel made them feel like a more integral part of the company and 53% said connecting with senior management was a positive and motivational experience.

If you are looking to implement a group travel program or examine other motivation tools for your company, please give us a call at 949.476.2788 or send me an email at khewkin@jnrcorp.com.

By JNR Incorporated

Written by Kristopher Hewkin

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JNR Incorporated is a results-based, globally recognized leader that specializes in creating custom travel, meeting, event, prepaid card and merchandise programs that motivate, engage and inspire the employees, customers and channel members of our clients. We have over 30 years of experience working with Fortune 500 companies of many diverse industries. Our programs are tailored to fit the specific needs of marketing, sales, management and human resource professionals. The unique solutions we apply are measurable and proven to increase performance, loyalty and revenues.

Travel Industry Spotlight: Baggage Allowance Fees

What were once viewed as loose guidelines to make travelling easier and keep the customer happy are now tightening as airlines and frequent flyers see the value of unbundled tickets. ‘Baggage Allowance’ – two words referring to airline luggage policies that vary dramatically between different carriers as consistent industry standards are non-existent.

It was once common practice for airlines to encourage tourists to participate in the activities that their countries were known for, including sports. For this reason, the first item of sports equipment brought onto the plane (skis, golf clubs, fishing equipment, etc.) were free or cheaper than an additional bag. Within the past few years, airlines have gradually stopped this practice and passengers can now end up facing exorbitant costs in unexpected fees if they do not research restrictions before heading to the airport.

While strict enforcement of luggage allowance, in both weight and dimensions, has been common in Europe for the past few years, the emergence of similar practices are becoming common place in other parts of the world.

According to the Bureau of Transportation, domestic airlines within the U.S. alone earned $3.35 billion in luggage fees last year, increasing by an estimated 89% in the last three years according to IdeaWorks. These fees result in big bucks for the airlines’ bottom line and it looks like they will continue to increase.

Source: Market Watch

It is time to take a look at the different practices from some of the main airlines across the world.

Air Canada

Checked Baggage: (standard economy fare): One item, 50 lbs limit

Fee for excess baggage: Between $20 and $100
Carry-on luggage: One bag, 22 lbs limit and one personal item, 22 lbs limit
Sporting equipment: Depends on the item. Some have handling fees.
Music equipment: Can be checked if it meets size and weight restrictions

 

Air New Zealand

Checked Baggage: (standard economy fare): two pieces, 50 lbs per piece

Fee for excess baggage: $150 and above
Carry-on luggage: One item, 15 lbs
Sporting equipment: No charge if within permitted baggage allowance otherwise standard excess charges apply

Music equipment: No charge if within permitted baggage allowance otherwise standard excess charges apply. Subject to oversize / overweight charge if applicable

 

American Airlines

Checked Baggage: (standard economy fare): Charges may apply depending on destination

Fee for excess baggage: Overweight baggage $100 per piece, oversized baggage $200 per piece
Carry-on luggage: One bag and one personal item
Sporting equipment: Additional charges depending on the item
Music equipment: No charge if within permitted baggage allowance otherwise standard excess charges apply

 

British Airways

Checked Baggage: (standard economy fare): One item, 50 lbs limit

Fee for excess baggage: Between $150 and $450
Carry-on luggage: One bag and one personal item, 51 lbs limit
Sporting equipment: Between $150 and $300
Music equipment: “Special tariff” not disclosed online

 

China Southern

Checked Baggage: (standard economy fare): One item, 50 lbs limit

Fee for excess baggage: $20 per piece

Carry-on luggage: Limit 11 lbs
Sporting equipment: Not disclosed online

Music equipment: Not disclosed online

 

Delta

Checked Baggage: (standard economy fare): One item, 50 lbs limit, between $0 and $25

Fee for excess baggage: Second bag, between $0 and $100, third bag, between $100 and $285, plus special handling and additional fees for bags that do not meet size and weight restrictions
Carry-on luggage: One bag and one personal item
Sporting equipment: Between $0 and $150 depending on the item
Music equipment: No charge if within permitted baggage allowance otherwise standard excess charges apply

 

Emirates

Checked Baggage: (standard economy fare): Two items, 50 lbs each

Fee for excess baggage: between $123 and $175 per additional piece

Carry-on luggage: One piece, 15 lbs limit
Sporting equipment: Not disclosed online

Music equipment: Not disclosed online

 

Fiji Airlines

Checked Baggage: (standard economy fare): One item, 50 lbs limit

Fee for excess baggage: Oversized and special handling fee $100, $120 per extra piece, $50 surcharge for each piece weighing 50lbs to 66 lbs

Carry-on luggage: One piece, 15 lbs limit (not uncommon to have your carry-on weighed and in the Nadi Airport it can be weighed at check-in and again when going through security gates)
Sporting equipment: Additional fees for sporting equipment even if within checked allowance

Music equipment: Not disclosed online

 

Japan Airlines

Checked Baggage: (standard economy fare): Two items, 50 lbs each

Fee for excess baggage: between $60 and $450

Carry-on luggage: One piece, 22 lbs limit
Sporting equipment: between $100 and $150

Music equipment: Not disclosed online

 

Lufthansa

Checked Baggage: (standard economy fare): One item, 50 lbs limit

Fee for excess baggage: Between $150 and $450
Carry-on luggage: One item, 15 lbs limit
Sporting equipment: No charge if within permitted baggage allowance otherwise standard excess charges apply
Music equipment: Not disclosed online

 

Qantas

Checked Baggage: (standard economy fare): Two items, 50 lbs limit

Fee for excess baggage: $175 per extra piece, $75 heavy charge
Carry-on luggage: One item, 15 lbs
Sporting equipment: No charge if within permitted baggage allowance otherwise standard excess charges apply

Music equipment: Not disclosed online

 

South West

Checked Baggage: (standard economy fare): Two items, 50 lbs limit

Fee for excess baggage: $75 for a 3rd checked item
Carry-on luggage: One bag and one personal item
Sporting equipment: Depends on the item

Music equipment: Can be carryon or checked if it meets size and weight restrictions

 

Virgin Atlantic

Checked Baggage: (standard economy fare): One item, 50 lbs limit

Fee for excess baggage: first extra bag $100, overweight $60, 70 lbs limit

Carry-on luggage: One piece, 22 lbs limit
Sporting equipment: One free piece, 50 lbs limit

Music equipment: Not disclosed online

 

Virgin Australia

Checked Baggage: (standard economy fare): Two items, 50 lbs limit per item

Fee for excess baggage: first extra bag $150, overweight $100, 70 lbs limit

Carry-on luggage: One piece, 22 lbs limit
Sporting equipment: Can be included as part of your check baggage allowance, certain sporting equipment is charged at 50% of the full excess baggage rate

Music equipment: Can be carry-on or checked if it meets size and weight restrictions

 

As you can see from this varied group of airlines, there are no industry standards and if you arrive at the airport naive to the baggage policy applying to your flight, you could be asked to pay over $100 to see that your baggage makes it onboard.

  • Before you fly, check your baggage allowance with the airline you are travelling with. Airlines often change and update baggage information.
  • JNR takes no responsibility for incorrect information or the baggage policies of airlines
  • This information was taken from individual airline websites and based on similar destinations

By JNR Incorporated

Written by Stephanie Thomas

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JNR Incorporated is a results-based, globally recognized leader that specializes in creating custom travel, meeting, event, prepaid card and merchandise programs that motivate, engage and inspire the employees, customers and channel members of our clients. We have over 30 years of experience working with Fortune 500 companies of many diverse industries. Our programs are tailored to fit the specific needs of marketing, sales, management and human resource professionals. The unique solutions we apply are measurable and proven to increase performance, loyalty and revenues.

 

Photo: “Budget Airways @ Changi Airport, Singapore” by William Cho is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Gateway Canyons Resort: Discovery of the Unexpected

Just days ago, I found myself at a fork in the road. Would I choose the same safe route I’ve always chosen or would I choose the road less traveled? In the end, I climbed through the window of a Pro Baja truck alongside a professional race driver and enjoyed the ride of my life on the off-road track at Gateway Canyons Resort in Southwestern Colorado. At times I thought I was on a roller coaster on steroids or the classic tilt-a-whirl ride at a county fair. As others who have experienced this adventure will attest, the smile never left my face.

Wait, what? You want me to back up? Where’s Gateway Canyons Resort and where’s Southwestern Colorado? Is it near Denver? Gateway Canyons Resort sits on the opposite side of Colorado from Denver about an hour from Grand Junction and two hours from Telluride. Okay, you recognize the name Telluride? Good.

For those of you who are not familiar with the area, Southwestern Colorado is a land of great scenic diversity, and within a two hour drive, you can experience majestic mountains, quaint towns, incredible deserts surrounded by towering rock formations, breathtaking canyons, raging rivers, and pastoral valleys. It is my ultimate favorite destination to visit.

So I was pleasantly surprised when I learned about Gateway Canyons Resort as there has not been a luxury resort in this particular area of Southwestern Colorado. I love the resort’s web site. As a member of Noble House Hotels and Resorts and affiliated with Associated Luxury Hotels International, Gateway Canyons benefits from larger than life pictures and exceptional marketing. In this case, however, a picture only says a thousand words. In fact, my desktop picture on my work computer is the below image taken on my husband’s cell phone camera, and I only wish I could transport myself like a character in a sci-fi movie through my computer screen into the picture. I would be back there in a heartbeat.

Maybe you’ve thought Colorado is boring, not luxurious, two dimensional. I believe anyone who has been to this area would beg to differ, as did John Hendricks (creator of Discovery Communications, i.e., Discovery Chanel and TLC) when he was first introduced to the Four Corner states. He tells the story in his 2013 released book A Curious Discovery of a trip to Kenya in the 1980s with the film crew from the BBC. When asked what they felt was “the most dramatic landscape they had seen”, they replied not with New Zealand, China, Scandinavia or South Africa but “the American Southwest” (Hendricks, p 330). Out of all of the various destinations they had traveled to and filmed, they chose a little corner of our country.

Shortly after this trip to Kenya ended, Hendricks went on the road looking for the perfect spot to develop a resort. Destiny brought him to Gateway, Colorado, a secluded high-desert paradise set down in the center of five startlingly beautiful and unique canyons. And so, the rest is history.

General Manager Rudy Sharp and his sales executives are quick to preface that Gateway Canyons is not the resort for everyone, so if you are only looking to relax poolside 24/7, then this isn’t the place for you. But if you are looking to replace the ordinary with the extraordinary, then you should consider Gateway Canyons for your next destination.

Now, don’t get me wrong; there’s a time and place for rejuvenating and relaxing, but out of the four days at the resort, I spent maybe an hour poolside. There are just too many incredible adventures: kayaking, mountain climbing, attending the pro-Baja truck driving school, driving ATVs, horseback riding, or participating in the soon to open evolution of weaponry. Piqued your interest yet?

With the philosophy of, “you want to create it, we’ll make it happen”, Gateway Canyons stands out as a signature property to surpass your participants’ wildest expectations. You want your VIPs to drive from the airport in exotic luxury cars owned by Hendricks? Sure thing. You want to do a progressive dinner in his classic car museum? We’d like nothing better. You want to shoot dynamite in a canyon? No problem. You want to try yoga on horseback? Okay. You want your participants to be comfortably uncomfortable? Definitely!

To sum it all up, I only wish I could put into words and describe through pictures this one-of-a-kind destination. But it is definitely a place you need to experience firsthand. Like my experience choosing to ride-along in the pro-Baja truck, there are moments in your life that you have to choose the road less traveled. So you’ve never thought of Colorado for your incentive or meeting. Well, open up your horizons to this incredibly dynamic destination. I heard so many people over my weekend there say, “I just never would have thought of Colorado. Now, I know differently.”

And, if I may say, JNR has been transforming the ordinary to the extraordinary for over 34 years and would like nothing better than to create an out-of-this-world program for your distinguished guests at this destination.

Discover the unexpected in Southwestern Colorado.

By JNR Incorporated

Written by Katharine Heinz

Katharine Heinz has been with JNR for nine years, first as a Desktop Publisher and now as the Planning Business Administrator. When she is not researching the next hot destination or hotel, she can be found at home enjoying her family.

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JNR Incorporated is a results-based, globally recognized leader that specializes in creating custom travel, meeting, event, prepaid card and merchandise programs that motivate, engage and inspire the employees, customers and channel members of our clients. We have over 30 years of experience working with Fortune 500 companies of many diverse industries. Our programs are tailored to fit the specific needs of marketing, sales, management and human resource professionals. The unique solutions we apply are measurable and proven to increase performance, loyalty and revenues.

Was Sochi the Birthplace of Incentive Travel?

Although most of us first heard of Sochi when it was announced that Russia had won their bid to host the 2014 Winter Olympics, it has long held the title of Russia’s largest resort town. However, Sochi may be the holder of another title – the birthplace of incentive travel.

The mild weather and coastal location are just a two of the reasons that Sochi is referred to as the “Russian Riviera” and make it a perfect destination for Russian employees to get a little rest and relaxation. Situated between the warm waters of the Black Sea and the picturesque Caucasus Mountains, this city has waterfalls, botanical gardens and even a year-round circus, but it is its sanatoriums that have caught our eye.

Although sanatoriums have different meanings and uses throughout the world, in Russia and particularly Sochi, these establishments are designed as health retreats.  Built in the early 1900s for Russia’s elite, it was Joseph Stalin who made Sochi a popular and fashionable summer destination. In the mid 20th century, sanatoriums were created for those in high Soviet society. By the late 1950s and early 1960s, sanatoriums had opened their doors to workers and peasants who received vouchers, ‘Putyovkas’, for all-inclusive trips to Sochi as a reward for their hard work.  Was this the birth of incentive travel?

Much like the incentive trips of today, these vouchers for up to 24 days in Sochi, were highly prized and not only viewed as a reward for those who worked hard, but were also implemented to increase productivity. Participants and their families would travel from all over Russia and utilize the sanatorium that aligned with their industry, whether they were metalworkers, miners or party elite.

This tradition of incentivizing employees with travel has continued into modern day with hundreds of thousands of Russians visiting Sochi each year on programs organized by municipalities, factories, employers, government bodies or unions. These trips are usually all-inclusive with all transportation, accommodation, meals, film screenings, activities and health treatments included.

It’s interesting to note that the Society for Incentive Travel Executives (SITE), among the most trusted and well respected organization in the industry, did not even hold its first meeting until 1973. This is over a decade after the sanatoriums of Sochi were first used as reward destinations for employees.

Based on three different empirical studies and a review of research in the field, this system of sanatoriums and health resorts seems to be beneficial, both for the people and for the national economy – much like how incentive travel benefits the employees that participate and the company that runs the programs.

If you have any thoughts on the subject, please feel free to leave a comment below or send me an email at sthomas@jnrcorp.com. You can also explore more of the benefits (including 4:1 return on investment) of engaging employees with incentive travel by reading this blog.

By JNR Corp

Written by Stephanie Thomas