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International business Travel Best Practices

9 best practices for executive retreats and corporate incentive travel

Anne Thornley-BrownWhether you’re an event planner organizing a foreign or local incentive trip or a team-building facilitator planning an executive retreat, what you do before, during and after these corporate events will determine their degree of success. We recommend you implement these nine best practices.


1. Clarify objectives. Most RFPs fail to clear this hurdle. Confer with the sponsoring executive and be sure you can answer certain questions:

  • Do you want the team to walk away with tools and strategies to improve the business?
  • Is your goal to break down silos and improve cross-functional teamwork?
  • Are there specific issues to be resolved?

If this is the case, a facilitated executive retreat will fit the bill. By contrast, a local or foreign incentive trip would be in order if the goal is to:

  • Reward top performers.
  • Get out of the office and let off steam.
  • Give the team a break after a demanding year or quarter.

2. Determine the budget. Without this information, it will be challenging to find the right venues and activities. Yet, often the budget is unknown or undisclosed when quotes are requested.

3. Engage the sponsoring executive. A few hours into a retreat is too late to discover that the CEO is highly analytical and does not support an executive retreat with a business simulation and heavy doses of creative brainstorming. The first day of an incentive trip is too late to discover that the CEO would prefer Italian to Moroccan cuisine. I have actually seen CEOs cancel dinner arrangements in the morning after everything has been paid for and logistics organized. To avoid this, prepare a one- or two-page outline, review it with the sponsoring executive, make modifications and get sign-off.

4. Allocate sufficient time. Jamming retreat agendas or incentive travel itineraries with activities will leave participants frazzled. Allow at least two nights for retreats and three nights for incentive trips. Add an extra day for rugged destinations like Oman. To buy more time, arrive early on the first day and leave late on the departure day.

5. Generate an attendee profile. Information such as the degree of physical fitness, their organizational level and learning-style preferences will shape your approach and selection of activities.

6. When choosing your location, stay where you intend to play. Don’t select a downtown hotel if dog-sledding is on the agenda. No one will appreciate sitting for hours on a bus to get to an event venue.


7. Provide orientation and, for retreats, an executive briefing. Upon arrival, over lunch or an afternoon tea, give the resort time for orientation and the sponsoring executive an opportunity to clarify objectives and convey his or her support.

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