Kim Hester has been a valued member of the JNR Travel Operations team for the past ten years. She has a wanderlust that carries her to unique and exotic destinations all over the world and loves nothing more than to transport you to those destinations with her enchanting storytelling abilities. She is an expert on all things travel and not afraid to take the path less traveled.
Before jumping into the Meetings and Incentives Industry she spent 15 years excelling in the Hotel Industry.
Years in the Meetings and Incentive Travel Industry: 27 years
Countries Visited: 94 countries
Countries she has operated a program in: 70 countries
Favorite Locations for Incentive Travel:
South Africa – for the diversity. You can start in Cape Town, which is cosmopolitan with beautiful wine country in the surrounding areas and then travel into the bush for a magical safari where you never have the same experience twice and finish at the breathtaking Victoria Falls.
New Zealand – for the stunning scenery, the variety of amazing activities on offer, the ease of travel and the delightful, friendly people.
Favorite Story from a Program:
In every program, I strive to create the perfect moment where time stands still and where participants will never forget the experience – that moment they want to tell everyone about and remember forever.
Three stories come to mind when I think about creating that moment.
The first was a Surprise Bush Dinner in the outback of South Africa. Guests were sent off on a safari tour for the afternoon and then brought to a secluded location in the bush at dusk instead of going back to the hotel. The jeeps pulled up to an Out of Africa scene that was kissed by the sun of the golden hour. Every detail was meticulously arranged. The tables were covered in linens and crystals, vignettes were scattered around with old suitcases and gramophones to set the scene of a colonial-times safari. The glow of campfire and candles scattered the shadows of movement from the local dancers in their traditional costumes. Crystal chandeliers hung from the trees and woven carpets lay on the ground. Portable washrooms with sinks and towels were brought in. Everything looked incredible. One guest walked in and burst into tears at the beauty. She was in complete awe of this perfect moment.
The second story took place in Queenstown, New Zealand. We offered bungee jumping as an optional activity for those seeking a thrill and we thought we might have ten people jumping. We ask who would like to go first and a woman in her seventies rushed to the front with excitement in her eyes. This was all it took to make everyone want to jump too. We filled a solid two hours with cheering and delight! In the end over 70 people took the plunge and no one regretted it. Everyone was caught up in the moment and not afraid to break their personal boundaries. Participants could not believe they had done it and spoke of how exhilarating the experience was. It was not long before families and friends at home were sent pictures of the amazing feat. It was a joy to see how excited they all were and to watch them break through their comfort zones. They become their ultimate selves on these programs.
The third story is also from a program in New Zealand and happened during the transfer from Auckland to Queenstown. Participants landed in Queenstown with the expectation that they would be put coaches from the airport to the hotel. Five minutes into the ride the coaches stopped by a river and guests were asked to step onto high powered speed boats to zip down the river and across the lake into the heart of Queenstown. These boats were speeding through the water, doing doughnuts and pulled up to the dock “James Bond” style. The scenery of Lake Wakatipu and the surrounding mountains was breathtaking. As participants stepped onto the dock and walked towards the hotel they were all saying what an amazing and wonderful surprise it was – their hair still wild from the wind and damp from the spray. I like to include one or two surprises on each program like this. “Unexpected” and “I cannot believe we just did that!” kept echoing through the crowd of participants. They had a true adventure moment and they loved it.
Moments like these make the long hours and hard work worthwhile. These participants go back to work with a new appreciation for their hosts and an increased drive to qualify for the next trip. They may not know where the next trip will be, but they can rest assured it will be an experience that they do not want to miss. This is the best motivator and the true value in an Incentive Program.
The JNR Difference:
The JNR difference involves getting personally involved with the client. By the time the program takes place we are connected. This allows us to personalize the experience for each client and each individual. We professionally communicate all important aspects of the program to them from the start when our Air Department calls them to give them options of flight routes, times and carriers, through to the actual travel experience. They get exactly what they want because we listen to their needs. One time a guest’s dream was to go fly fishing in New Zealand and even though that was not offered as one of the activities, I made sure this gentleman had his dream New Zealand fly fishing experience.
The clients and the participants become members of the family. We know their likes and dislikes. They are never just a client.
The Future of Incentive Travel:
There are so many elements that go into the decision of which destination to choose for an incentive trip. Right now, security and the feeling of safety has become the number one consideration. Clients prefer remote places that feel safer such as New Zealand, Switzerland, French Polynesia and the Galapagos Islands. We never want participants dropping out over safety concerns so we make sure we find a good balance between a magical experience that is also comfortable and secure at all times.
Travel and education are the key to overcoming cultural differences and even as things change in the world, travel should never be taken off the program.
Kim’s Bucket List:
- Bhutan and Nepal
- The Maldives and Sri Lanka
Kim is a member of the Global DMC Partners‘ Advisory Board.
JNR is a full service, globally recognized leader in the incentive industry offering solutions for Meetings and Conferences, Incentive Travel, Special Events and Entertainment, Prepaid Card Services and AXS Contact Center Solutions. We have over 36 years of experience working with Fortune 500 companies across many industries. Our clients trust our comprehensive suite of solutions that offer a better way to reach performance, productivity and loyalty objectives. JNR tends to every detail of your program to ensure an extraordinary experience for your customers, employees and participants and a favorable return on your investment. We allow you to step away from the logistical details and let you focus on what you do best.