Travel Tales from a Senior Account Executive

As a Senior Account Executive at JNR Incorporated, my task it to create unforgettable, unique experiences that “WOW” the audience of my clients. Typically I am helping my clients increase customer and advertiser loyalty by treating their most steadfast clientele to exquisitely planned trips in exotic locales. These trips are designed as both a reward for past business and an incentive to remain loyal in the future.

My job takes me to all corners of the world and I am often on the road for weeks at a time operating programs. I had a particularly busy month recently finding myself in South Africa, Zambia and Botswana for a client program and ending with a personal visit to Uganda. This vast excursion left me with amazing ideas and insights for future programs.

No program is ever perfect but the program in South Africa was as close as it gets.  A few small, unavoidable travel issues when the group checked in for their outbound flights, but everything was resolved painlessly. After that, it was smooth sailing all the way!  We had perfect weather in Cape Town for a helicopter tour and visits to Cape Point, the wine country and a variety of dining venues. Everyone noted that they had had a spectacular time.

Sabi Sabi Reserve was, as usual, utterly amazing and we had the best game sightings I have experienced in all of my travels there. We checked off Africa’s Big five game animals (lion, elephant, Cape buffalo, leopard and rhinoceros) within the first two hours on our game drive and even saw a leopard drag its prey up to tree before consuming it. Gruesome and fascinating – the vehicle was covered in a curtain of awe. Dinner at the Bush Lodge was a divine highlight – a breathtaking setting that conveyed the essence of the program theme, “Capture the Magic.”  We certainly did that night!

Victoria Falls was fantastic. We enjoyed a game cruise in Botswana, swam in the Devil’s Pool at the top of the falls and peered over the precipice, walked with lions and had cocktails and dinner at sunset on a chartered luxury train over Victoria Falls bridge, which spans the Zambezi River and serves as the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. The final night was highlighted by spectacular drumming on the deck at sunset in sight of the falls and dinner on the lawn with monkeys and zebras strolling by. Clients left saying this was the best program they had ever experienced and the kudos are still rolling in!

A multitude of US cancellations all over Africa were in place due to the Ebola scare which was actually centered thousands of miles from our program. The Europeans were all chuckling about fear and media coverage present in America and enjoying the lack of crowds. The most amusing part of this was when we crossed back over from Botswana to Zambia after the river game cruise, we were pulled aside and health screened because the US is now considered an “Ebola risk country” with the cases in Dallas and NY! The participants really got a kick out of us being considered a “problem country” from the African perspective.  While we take the health of our participants very seriously, this was a reminder of how situations are presented differently through various worldview perspectives.

After the program was complete, I chose to stay on in Africa and made my way North to Uganda.  What a revelation that was! It is a stunningly beautiful country to say the least.  Entebbe sits on a peninsula surrounded by Lake Victoria (2nd largest lake in the world) and the area is absolutely gorgeous. It is home to the largest United Nations community in Africa and the staging point for most of the African UN missions, both military and humanitarian. It was fascinating to see that the operation and the town is quite diverse and filled with people of all nationalities. Next, I flew up to the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest to see the magnificent mountain gorillas. The flight was beautiful. Uganda looks like a cross between Ireland and Bali, Indonesia. The landscape boasted a million shades of green, and every inch was terraced and cultivated for farming. They grow mostly tea, but also coffee, corn, potatoes and many other crops in this region.  The soil is very fertile due to ample rain and it is considered the “grocery store” of East Africa. Ugandans are wonderfully friendly and very proud of their country – they could not have been nicer or more genuinely welcoming.

The gorillas – WOW! There are only 800 of these primates left in the world and they are found nowhere else but this small triangle of Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).  I stayed at the Gorilla Sanctuary Lodge which is a spectacular “glamping” (glamorous camping) spot. The whole place includes just nine high-end tents and can accommodate 18 people at capacity. This lodge offers incredible views of the mountains and forests and every luxury amenity you could ask for. They even used furry hot water bottles to pre-warm your bed at night – a ritual I may take home with me. When you get back from trekking drenched from rain and caked in mud, they hand you a drink and remove your dirty clothes and boots, then return them spotless, pressed and dry two hours later. This paired with outstanding gourmet food and perfect service in the most incredible setting imaginable; I absolutely loved it!

The actual trek to see the gorilla troops was a very tough hike and I am glad I was ready after weeks of preparation with extra gym workouts. There are a number of different gorilla troops and those who are not as fit can choose to visit a troop that is only an hour hike away. For an extra fee, they even carry disabled people up to the closest troop. We went for the tougher three hour hike each way – and did it twice!

Each troop is habituated for three years by the rangers and trackers before they take people up to view them. Once a troop is familiar with humans, only eight people per day can visit that troop and for a maximum of just one hour. I was so impressed with how everyone involved is EXTREMELY dedicated to keeping the gorillas safe and healthy and keeping the experience exclusive and authentic for those who visit.  A team of six people brings you up the mountain- two trackers that locate the troop, two rangers with AK-47s who guard against wild mountain elephants (they shoot into the air to scare them off if they get too close), a guide and a porter who carries water, food and emergency supplies. The trek was steep, muddy and the last hour was spent hacking, slipping and stumbling our way through the densest rain forest brush. Then, all of a sudden…there they are! The troops range from twelve to nineteen gorillas, and each has a dominant male silverback, plus four to six females, a number of juveniles and a number of babies as well. There simply are no words that adequately describe how magnificent they are. Their DNA is 98.5% human and their behavior is incredibly people-like. You see them eating, playing, grooming, socializing and taking part in a variety of other activities so familiar to us. The silverback is the vigilant, protective dad and the moms are attentive to the babies. Watching the babies wrestle and play with each other and the juveniles was pure magic. Every aching muscle is a distant memory when you are immersed in this rare and exceptional experience. After we left the gorillas, the adrenaline and excitement carried us back down the mountain much faster than the time it took to get there. They say there are those who do the trek on multiple days and those who wish they had. I was immensely glad that I chose to do hikes on multiple days because the two experiences were completely different, yet equally amazing.

I also spent time hiking to waterfalls, visiting local villages and seeing what the “gorilla income” does for the surrounding communities. It is truly inspirational and the village children welcome visitors with the most genuine smiles.

I then went back to Entebbe for a night before flying home, the end to a fabulous program and a special trip I will never forget.

I am always looking forward to future travel programs and am excited to be working on potential future programs in the most exotic of locales.  Next up (I hope!) is Borneo as well as other “off the beaten track” type trips. 2015 and 2016 look to be very good years in the incentive world and there is no better way to bond with clients than to treat them to an unforgettable shared adventure.

By JNR Incorporated

Written by Kim Hester, Senior Account Executive

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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 courtesy of Donna Rohmer

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

JNR Incorporated Named “Top 50 Event Company” by Special Events Magazine

We are extremely honored to announce that JNR Incorporated has been selected as a Special Events Magazine Top 50 Event Company for the 2nd consecutive year!

Our spike in international events and authentic experiences to destinations such as South Africa, Vietnam, Cambodia and Brazil were cited as some of reasons for our inclusion on this exclusive list.

Here’s to hoping for a third consecutive selection next year.

http://specialevents.com/septemberoctober-2014#12

German Spotlight: Top Spots in Germany

With an unrivaled and rich history, there is no denying that the country of Germany holds some of the world’s greatest natural and manmade treasures.  As one of the most powerful and remarkable countries in the world, there is an incredible abundance of sights to see for any traveler heading to the continent of Europe. There are an astonishing amount of wonders to behold from the fairytale castles of Bavaria and the cosmopolitan capitals of car manufacturing and beer making to the romantic Rhine River valley and its medieval manors.

This proceeding list compiled with help from Touropia and Expatica will take you on a journey from some of Germany’s most popular tourist spots to some of its best kept secrets, but there is one unifying factor between them all – every globetrotter should make it a priority to visit each one in their lifetime:

1)    Berlin

Berlin is the cosmopolitan capital of Germany, a city once ravaged by the battle between east and west that has grown into one of the most significant political and economic centers of Europe. Berlin is the symbol of German unification and thus has a wealth of history in its museums and monuments. A visit to the city would not be complete without a visit to the Brandenburg Gate or the world heritage site of the former Berlin Wall.

2)    Neuschwanstein Castle

If you have ever been to Walt Disney World in Orlando and seen the magnificence of Cinderella’s Castle, it is imperative to see its inspiration right in the middle of the Bavarian Alps: Neuschwanstein. It is one of the most beautiful structures in the entire world, and the most photographed in all of Germany, and it is easy to see why. There are turrets and columns galore on this world famous castle built in the late 1800’s, and it is worth the trip south for any tourist looking to see fairytales come to life!

3)    Munich

Munich comes to life every October as millions of travelers flock to this famous Bavarian city when Oktoberfest commences. It is a world renowned affair that showcases one of Germany’s most famous commodities while displaying the country’s jovial and welcoming disposition. When not hosting its famous festival, Munich is a blend of modern and classical, teeming with both medieval fortresses and a bustling nightlife.

4)    The Black Forest

The Black Forest of southwestern Germany is celebrated as one of the most popular recreational areas in the whole country with over 4,000 square miles of valleys, vineyards, lakes and nature preserves.  Stroll through its dense foliage and lose track of time among its numerous bike paths.  Don’t forget to make a trek here in the autumn to see a fantastic natural showcase as thousands of trees change color in preparation for winter.

5)    Heidelberg

Hansel and Gretel fairytales and gingerbread houses become real in this enchanting German town. Heidelberg with its famous castle and Old Bridge are historic treasures waiting to be discovered while strolling the cobblestoned blocks. Heidelberg is quintessentially German, and it is impossible not to enjoy its beauty when munching on a German bratwurst and listening to cuckoo clocks.

6)    The Middle Rhine River

Stretching between the cities of Bingen and Bonn, Germany, the Middle Rhine flows through a dramatic geological formation called the Rhine Gorge. This region features a spectacular landscape dotted with close to 50 medieval castles, picturesque villages and terraced vineyards. One of the best ways to capture the magic of this unparalleled scenery is through a river boat cruise in order to really grasp the extent of the remarkable formation.

7)    Cologne

There are few buildings in the world that can strike a person with awe and wonder, one of these buildings is the Cologne Cathedral. This impressive gothic church reaches to the heavens with a multitude of grand spires and flying buttresses, a classic medieval site that cannot be missed if you are visiting Cologne or western Germany.

8)    Lake Constance

The Lake Constance region, where Germany borders Austria and Switzerland, is a holiday paradise set around one of Europe’s largest lakes. One of the most popular excursion destinations in the country is the Flower Island of Mainau on Lake Constance, famous for its magnificent parks and gardens, ideal for rest and relaxation.

9)    Mount Zugspitze

The Zugspitze is one of the most famous mountain peaks in the entire Alps range, measuring an astounding 9,700 feet. It is not only Germany’s highest mountain but one of its most thrilling. Visitors who are willing to brave a climb to its summit will be rewarded with miles of fantastic views of the beautiful German countryside.

10)  Nuremburg

This imperial city is majestic at any time of year with its towering castle and cobbled walkways, but this city is best known for its world famous Christmas market. Beginning in late November and continuing on through the New Year, this city is decked with festive décor and festooned with lights as thousands come to enjoy the spirit of the holidays and the open air markets.

Germany is a unique combination of old and new, medieval and modern, and few nations have a wealth of attractions that intermingles these two ideals together as successfully as Germany. There is an underappreciated natural beauty to Germany in its alpine region and lush forests, as well as its fashionable metropolises where internationally distinguished companies call home. Germany truly harbors some of the world’s most fascinating historical sites, and it is a nation that easily appeals to older and younger generations alike, creating a common ground for travelers to share experiences in this legendary country.

If you would like more information on the wonderful sights that Germany has to offer, please email jnrinfo@jnrcorp.com.

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: “River Spree Berlin” by Mariano Mantel is licensed under CC By 2.0

Perfect Holiday Gifts for Employees, Customers and Channel Members

The passing of Labor Day signals the symbolic end of the summer to many and now we look forward to what lies ahead as September is underway. Fall colors, seasonal Starbucks drinks and Halloween are all fun things that highlight this time of the year, but something that requires a great deal of preparation is also rapidly approaching in the coming months: the December holidays!

Purchasing the perfect gift for every person on your personal list of family members and friends is difficult enough, but figuring out what to give your employees, customers and channel members is a completely different situation. If you operate a relatively small company with a short list of clients, then you may have the appropriate amount of time and knowledge to purchase something tailored to their preferences, which is the ideal option. If you are tasked with gifting for a large corporation, then personalized gifts are virtually impossible.

Thankfully there is a gift available that is easy to distribute to a large audience, cost-effective and allows you to thank your audiences by offering them the freedom of choice!

Gift cards are that gift!

Corporate gift cards come in several different forms. The typical Best Buy or Starbucks card you may think of when you hear the words “gift card” is merely one type.

 “Open loop” cards can be used virtually anywhere major credit cards are accepted, allowing the recipient the freedom to purchase practically anything that their heart desires. MasterCard® is a common issuer of open loop gift cards. This category accounts for 56% to 62% of the market.

“Closed loop” gift cards are issued by a specific retailer, such as Best Buy or Starbucks. Closed loop cards fall into the following categories (ranked from most to least popular): food & beverage, department stores, exclusive online retailers, music and movies, fuel, electronics, sporting goods, apparel, travel, jewelry and accessories.

Both types of gift cards carry low fees and are easy to distribute. Open loop cards can be personalized and branded with your company logo and both will make virtually any person happy! We all love the freedom to choose right?

The gift card industry is not just relevant to businesses during the holiday season though. Corporate incentive and loyalty programs are valuable tools to utilize year-round and can center on distributing rewards and incentives for greatness in sales, performance, safety, loyalty and other achievements. Holiday gift cards are only the beginning.

Below is a profile of gift card intentions among companies who frequently use them as some form of incentive, according to Incentive Magazine:

For more information on how to implement a gift card program to thank employees and customers, optimize channel sales, increase safety or reinforce and reward just about any other positive behavior, please give us a call at 949.476.2788, send us an email at jnrinfo@jnrcorp.com, view our website or check out the relevant links below.

Suggested Gift & Rebate Card Readings:

A Look at Prepaid Cards in Incentive, Rewards, and Recognition Programs

Prepaid Debit Cards Are Effective Incentive and Reward Options

Auto Consumers Love Rebate Cards

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.