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What can meeting and incentive planners offer groups that have "done" Europe several times, but still want something unique? Plenty, say representatives of Europe tourist offices, who provided the following incentive ideas. Moreover, many of their travel rewards won't blow the budgets of your corporate clients either.

Take the bike rally enjoyed by Canadian life insurance agents in Holland, for example. "It was totally different," states their director of marketing services.

"Imagine 120 people, all wearing white T-shirts, cycling together over dikes and past windmills to visit a cheese factory. The excursion not only gave us a lot of bang for the buck, but it also helped our organizer win a SITE (Society of Incentive Travel Executives) award."

Here are some other non-traditional ideas to give your European incentives that unique edge.

European incentive cruises

  • Explore the Turkish coast on a floating villa.
  • Charter up to four luxury barges for individual or tandem cruises along European rivers and canals.

Europe train tours

  • Charter the elegant Royal Scotsman train for 32 passengers for two- to four-night tours of England and Scotland.
  • Board the Venice Simplon-Orient Express for a 24-hour train trip from Paris via Switzerland to Venice.

Austria travel incentives

Conductor directs the Vienna Boys' Choir. Austria.
Conductor directs the Vienna Boys' Choir. Austria.
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll
  • Waltz lessons, followed by a horse-drawn carriage ride to a costume ball in a Viennese palace.
  • A formal banquet, for up to 24 people, on the 60-metre-high Prater ferris wheel in Vienna. After each 10-minute revolution, white-gloved waiters serve a new course.
  • Dinner in the vaulted cellar of the 300-year-old Klosterneuburg Abbey with participants and servers dressed as brown-robed monks.
  • A falcon and eagle show in a medieval castle in Salzburg.
  • Strudel-making lessons from a top Viennese chef, followed by a tasting.
  • A private concert by the Vienna Choir Boys.

France corporate incentive programs

  • Cocktails, dinner and dancing in the Eiffel Tower, the Palace of Versailles, or the Pyramid of the Louvre.
  • Hunting-horn fanfare greeting before lunch at the Royal Chateau of Chambord.
  • Wine initiation with presentation of scrolls and bronze medals in a medieval cellar.
  • Hot air ballooning over the thyme fields, olive groves and red-roofed villages of Provence.
  • Wine-tasting and lunch at the Chateau du Clos Vougeot, home of the Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin, in Burgundy.

Germany incentive travel awards

  • A journey on the original 100-year-old horse-drawn carriages, once used by German kings. Costumed Royal Bavarian coachmen bring groups of up to 35 from castle to castle for tours, entertainment and dining.
  • River-rafting on the Isar, for up to 200 people, on log rafts with beer barrels and bands onboard.
  • Bavarian Prince Luitpold escorts guests to Kaltenburg Castle for a jousting tournament, a medieval banquet and a tour of his brewery.
  • VIP tour and academy awards ceremony at BavariaFilm studios, where Sophia Loren, Elizabeth Taylor and Lisa Minelli starred in films.

Holland travel incentive programs

Cocktails in the caves at Maastricht, Holland.
Cocktails in the caves at Maastricht, Holland.
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll
  • A ship brings passengers out on the Wadden Sea at high tide. When the tide goes out, the ship is stranded. Waiters serve an elegant luncheon on tables, set with silver and crystal, on the sea floor. Guests wear tuxedos or cocktail gowns and rubber boots.
  • Cocktails in the caves at Maastricht, while watching a Tableau Vivant (live portrait) of Rembrandt's Night Watch. (This famous painting, and others, were hidden in these caves during WWI and II.)
  • A tour of the History of Holland, sculpted in sand, at Madurodam, followed by lessons from a professional sand-sculptor and a sand-sculpting competition.
  • A coach tour, where the bus develops "engine problems" just outside a warehouse filled with bicycles. Participants continue their sightseeing through the polders by bike.

Italy corporate incentives

  • A helicopter or airship tour of the Appian Way, the Roman Forum and St. Peter's Square.
  • Cocktails and tours of prestigious fashion boutiques in Rome, followed by a show of a designer's latest collection. Gifts of designer perfume and ties.
  • A tour of ancient and modern olive oil presses, followed by a guided olive oil tasting by master oil-makers and a dinner featuring olive dishes.
  • A toga party in a villa on the Appian Way, with transport by chariot, menu in Latin, classical Roman food, costumes, entertainment and decor.
  • A thermal bath in a grotto, surrounded by stalactites and stalagmites, followed by a Tuscan buffet and wine at a farmhouse.
  • A submarine tour of the flora and fauna of the sea floor near Capri.
  • Visits to convents of cloistered nuns to taste the candies that they make from secret recipes.

Northern Ireland incentive ideas

  • A helicopter trip along the spectacular North Antrim Coast, touching down at Bushmills for a "wee dram" at the world's oldest whiskey distillery.
  • A picnic on the cliff tops at the Giant's Causeway — a mass of basalt columns, stretching like giant stepping stones from the cliffs to the Atlantic.
  • A story-telling by a turf fire in an old thatched cottage, followed by traditional Irish music.

Portugal incentive awards

  • A gala dinner for 150 surrounded by antique carriages in the Royal Coach Museum in Belém.
  • A medieval banquet for up to 300, with costumed entertainment, in St. George's Castle overlooking Lisbon.
  • Cocktails, while watching a show of 18th-century horsemanship in the courtyard of the Postmaster General's Palace near Lisbon.

Scandinavia incentive travel awards

  • Viking-costumed participants sample mead and Nordic foods, ride a Viking ship and see ancient forts, runic stones and Viking artifacts. (Can be timed to join a Viking Festival in Denmark in July.)
  • A dinner of barbecued salmon, wild mushrooms and other Lapp specialties in Finland, at The Bear's Den Lodge, or in a tepee.
  • In winter, a reindeer safari in Lapland, ice golf, and a break-the-ice sauna (literally).
  • In summer, all-night golf, under the Midnight Sun.
Flamenco dance performers. Spain.
Flamenco dance performers. Spain.
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Spain travel incentive programs

  • A tapas (appetizer) bar crawl in Madrid.
  • Lessons in flamenco dancing and paella-making, followed by a professional show with dinner.
  • A private guitar recital.
  • A sheep-herding competition in Granada.
  • Singing, dancing and dining on Andalusian foods, with the gypsies, in Sacromonte Caves.

Switzerland travel incentives

  • Tandem para-gliding from Salève, the mountain dominating Geneva.
  • A private flight around the Matterhorn and Mont Blanc on a restored DC-3, the "Orient Express of the Sky."
  • An Alpine Olympics with competitions in cow-milking, alphorn-blowing, flag-throwing and cowbell-ringing.
  • Golf with red balls on white "greens" on the frozen lake in St. Moritz.
  • An Alpine bus "stalls" at the top of a snowy mountain, requiring guests to bundle into sledges for a ride to the base where hot spiced wine and cheese fondue await.
  • A Swiss Farmers' buffet amid the historic buildings of the Ballenberg Open Air Museum (near Interlaken), with demonstrations of weaving, pottery, cheese and bread-making.

United Kingdom incentive ideas

  • Dinner in an ornate Livery Hall of a Medieval Guild in London.
  • A hit musical in London's West End, then a party with the stars.
  • Dinner with World Leaders and Heads of State at Madame Tussauds in London.
  • Race-car driving lessons, a course by the top 007 expert in Britain and a visit to the Spymaster Shop, on a James Bond incentive at the Royal Garden Hotel in London.
  • Cocktails on the HMS Victory, Lord Nelson's flagship.
  • Tour of a coal mine in Wales, followed by Welsh music and food in Cardiff Castle.
  • Private whiskey-tastings in famous Scotland distilleries and blending your own whiskey.
  • Dinner with nobility in a private stately home.

More meeting and incentive ideas:

Small Ships - Big Incentives

Iceland Meetings & Corporate Incentives

Prince Edward Island Meeting and Incentive Groups

Yukon Meeting and Incentives

Tahiti Travel Incentive Programs