by Shirley Hutchins, CMP, HMCC Travel, Incentive Programs, Meetings November 21st, 2017
Iceland Incentive Trip
I, Shirley Hutchins, recently had the wonderful opportunity to travel to Iceland to attend the Global Incentive Summit in Reykjavik on behalf of Bishop-McCann. I have been hearing a lot about Iceland as a destination for both corporate meetings and incentives so I was excited to be able to experience it for myself. I was also eager to meet more than 30 representatives from hotels, cruise lines, DMCs and convention bureaus from around the world during the corporate event. I wasn’t disappointed on either count.
Northstar and SITE organized a great corporate event. Two days of appointments, educational content, venue sites and networking opportunities were very well organized and I felt my time was well spent.
During my stay, I was hosted by the Borg Hotel, a 56 room art deco hotel built in the 1930s adjacent to the Icelandic parliament and the beautiful Austurvollur Square. The rooms were nicely appointed, the staff was helpful and the location in the downtown area couldn’t be beat.
Each morning, following a delicious breakfast in the on-site restaurant, Jamie’s Italian, the group of approximately 100 suppliers and buyers were guided through one-on-one appointments on-site at the hotel. The 15 minute appointments were very productive and I came away with many new connections and a better feel for hotels and destinations which might be great options for our clients.
Over lunches during the summit attendees were treated to not only delicious Icelandic food, but also tours of venues within the city and educational content of interest to those in the hospitality industry. The first day the group was given the chance to tour Harpa, the city’s concert and event center. Meeting rooms and two beautiful theaters and state of the art architecture and technology make this a popular site for meetings for up to 1800 people as well as live theater and musical events. Lunch was served in one of the meeting spaces overlooking the city and the beautiful bay on which the stunning building sits. Lunch on day two was hosted by the Restaurant Reykjavik in the most historic section of the city. Both venues were an easy walk from the hotel to our destination. Topics such as security, industry trends and service levels were addressed with valuable insight provided by all involved.
Unique Incentive Trip Experiences
To offer attendees the chance to experience some of what this beautiful country has to offer outside of the city, Northstar worked with two local partners, Iceland Congress and Meet in Reykjavik. The choice of an ATV tour along the coast or a trip to soak in the warm waters of the Blue Lagoon were offered to attendees, and a moonlit drive in “super Jeeps” to search for the Northern Lights was enjoyed by everyone. We were even given a tour at the Hellisheidi Power Plant, the third-largest geothermal power plant in the world.
Getting to Iceland was fairly easy with a 6.5 hour flight from the Denver and I understand that there are many daily non-stop flights from cities around the US. From the east coast, the flights are much shorter and the proximity to Europe makes it even more appealing to those planning corporate events with attendees from both sides of the Atlantic.
The countryside is stunning and quite different than what one finds in the states or in Europe. During my visit in early November, the beauty was very dramatic with its barren, snow-covered mountains and jagged volcanos, especially when veiled in the steam coming from the many natural hot springs. Impressive waterfalls can be seen cascading down cliffs as one travels down the road and rock formations that look like they were just formed jut out of black sand beaches. I understand summer is even more impressive, especially when the lupine is in full bloom and the land is covered in what looks like an endless expanse of soft moss.
The popularity of recent shows and movies such as Game of Thrones, Fast and Furious 8 and Rogue One are credited with creating interest in the destination. The increased awareness of the extreme beauty of the island and the desire of the adventurous traveler to see and experience new things have led to a huge increase in visitors to Iceland, including those traveling on incentive trips. I learned that the annual number of visitors to the island has grown from under 100,000 per year in the 80’s to over 4 million recently.
For those wanting to offer a unique incentive destination with plenty of non-traditional experiences I feel Iceland should be considered. The Golden Circle is a very popular route that allows travelers to see unique sites that include geysers, waterfalls and geothermal features during an easy day trip from Reykjavik. Groups can hike on glaciers, explore ice caves and volcanos, whale watch and of course soak in one of the country’s many hot springs, both natural or man-made. There are enough activities to keep attendees engaged for the better part of the week and of course the shopping, restaurants and museums found in the city that focus on the Viking history and Northern Lights offer even more options.
I would also consider recommending the city of Reykjavik for those on corporate business who need a central meeting space with attendees coming from Europe and the States. The Hilton Reykjavik Nordica has 251 rooms and a beautiful conference center. The Canopy by Hilton is another nice option with a great location right in the heart of downtown where attendees can enjoy the shops and restaurants of the historic city. That said, due to winter weather and shorter periods of daylight during those months, I would probably only suggest the location during the late spring to early fall time frame.
Another drawback for corporate business that I see is that the airport is about a 50-minute drive from downtown. That distance is not much different than what travelers would experience at many other US or European cities but the fact that it is connected to the city by a two-lane road is something to keep in mind. For a short meeting where the goal is to just meet quickly for one or two days, this may not be the best location.
Iceland’s accessibility from the US and Europe, the common use of the English language, the unique terrain and the history and culture of this small country make it a destination that would appeal to many. I know I was very glad to have made the trip.
- 100% of the country’s energy is fueled by renewable sources. 30% of the power comes from geothermal sources while the remainder comes from hydro-electric power.
- The streets in downtown Reykjavik never freeze due to an elaborate system of heated water just below the pavement.
- During the mid-winter months of December and January there is only about 4 hours of daylight per day while in June and July there is as much as 21 hours.
- The only native land mammal is the arctic fox.
- The island has about 130 active and inactive volcanoes.
- Iceland is quite a bit smaller than the state of Colorado but its total population is less than 350,000. Two-thirds of those live in Reykjavik.