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An Incentive Dream

To an incentive planner, Australia is like a tremendous blank canvas, with endless possibilities to enchant, enthrall and forever leave your mark on attendees. Whether it’s a snorkeling excursion in the World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef, stylish R&R on one of the luxurious tropical islands (such as One&Only Hayman Island or Lizard Island) or an exploration of award-winning food and wine along the banks of the Yarra River in Melbourne, the potential activities are as varied as the tastes of your attendees.

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Australia: One&Only Hayman Island

Located in the heart of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, 160-room One&Only Hayman Island is a stylish private island resort located off the south coast of Hamilton Island. The resort was rebranded in 2014 after a change in management to Kerzner International Holdings, who invested $80 million into upgrades.

Every aspect of a stay there is orchestrated to make its mark on incentive travelers, starting with the exclusive arrival via private yacht, seaplane or helicopter. Elegant but not stuffy, the resort has its own private beach, ideal for evening welcome functions featuring the freshest of local seafood—an oyster shucking station and shrimp on the barbie—and dancing barefoot in the sand. Groups can customize their events with floating logos in the pool, illuminated in the evenings, or design a grand welcome by jet skis with flags emblazoned with the company logo, accompanying the yacht as it enters the marina.

The resort is the perfect starting point for a cruise to the nearby Great Barrier Reef, one of the top natural wonders of the world. Snorkeling among a vibrant array of marine and plant life, delegates will find themselves face-to-face with countless brilliantly colored fish and rare marine species such as seahorses. Groups can also arrange to experience the majesty of the reef by flying overhead in helicopters, or extend the day into the evening with the chance to sleep under a million stars on a floating pontoon.

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Legendary Food & Wine

Australia has gained a reputation worldwide for its expertise in food and wine, spurred on by events such as Melbourne’s annual Food & Wine Festival each March. This year’s event, though international in scope, paid homage to its roots and celebrated local, authentic industries, such as dairy farming. It also held events in some of the many historic function spaces, such as the Plaza Ballroom of the Regent Theatre, built in 1929.

A short trip from Melbourne takes groups into the heart of Victoria’s scenic wine country. Wine tastings or an al fresco lunch at one of many wineries known for their chardonnay, shiraz and pinot noir varieties, happen in the Yarra Valley. Or an early-morning hot air balloon ride lifts groups high above the landscape.

In addition to the wineries, a boutique gin distillery wave is sweeping Australia, with Four Pillars at the forefront. Groups of up to 25 can tour the facility with distiller Cameron McKenzie, learn about the native and traditional botanicals that are used to flavor the blends, and even create their own custom blend to bottle and take home, using a new small-batch still.

The luxury lodge Saffire Freycinet, set on Tasmania’s breathtaking East Coast, is known for its Marine Farm Oyster experience, in which the chef transports the entire kitchen to the marine farm. Guests arrive to bonfires floating across the estuary surrounding this pop-up restaurant, then wade out into the water, where the oysters are picked and shucked as they watch. All of this is topped off with a glass of Tasmania’s finest sparkling wine, before heading back to the restaurant for a 6-course degustation dinner.

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Spectacular Sydney

Many U.S. programs originate in Sydney, where one-of-a-kind bespoke experiences are on the agenda. Highlights can include a bridge climb over Sydney Harbour Bridge, where groups ascend the famous arches of the bridge to enjoy the 360-degree views of Sydney Harbour. It’s possible to have canapes waiting at the top as groups watch a private plane emblazon their corporate logo across the sky. A sailing regatta on Sydney Harbour, with the sails of boats proudly displaying company logos is another option. This often concludes with lunch at an exclusive private club, the Royal Motor Yacht Club of New South Wales.

At the elegant Paspaley boutique, groups have also learned about South Sea pearls and how the experts grade their quality, followed by high tea at the nearby Queen Victoria Building. Dinner at the 1889 landmark Sydney Town Hall can continue this theme of exclusivity, paying homage to the history of New South Wales’ iconic capital city.

There are numerous luxury hotel options in Sydney, with the centrally located Four Seasons Hotel Sydney, Shangri-La Hotel, Sydney and Park Hyatt Sydney—each with rooms overlooking the Opera House—being popular choices for incentive groups.

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Outback Majesty

The Outback is an image synonymous with Australia, as well as being its spiritual heart. Programs can easily build in visits to Uluru (Ayers Rock) and the sacred red domes of Kata Tjuta (The Olgas). A popular option, according to local DMC Arinex Events, is a black tie and sand shoes evening against the backdrop of Uluru at sunset. Guests arrive dressed in formal attire for an elegant dinner, and are accessorized with sand shoes for the occasion.

For groups looking to stay in the area, a popular option is the 5-star, 228-room Sails in the Desert Hotel. For something unique, Longitude 131 is a luxury campsite focused on small groups, with just 15 palatial pavilions accommodating up to 30 guests. These high-canopy structures offer all the luxuries of a 5-star hotel, from iPads with WiFi to turn-down service. Glass walls in each structure provide a direct view of Uluru. Day excursions are centered around exploration of the majestic monolith, whether that be by helicopter for an overhead view, a Harley Davidson motorcycle tour around the base of the rock or even a trek on camels through the rich, red desert dunes.

In Western Australia, world-class snorkeling and diving among vibrant coral, whale sharks and manta rays take place at the Ningaloo Marine Park, a World Heritage Site. Or groups can hunker down in high-end wilderness tents at the beachside safari camp, Sal Salis. Likewise, swathes of gorgeous wilderness play backdrop to camel riding in the Kimberley. Aboriginal cultural experiences, specifically focusing on the Wadandi and Bibbulman people of the Busselton, Dunsborough and Margaret River regions, are also available with Koomal Dreaming tours for up to 30 attendees. A guided bush walk introduces the six seasons and traditional foods such as kangaroo, emu, quandong and salt bush. During a twilight didgeridoo cave experience, groups venture into Ngilgi Cave, home of the good spirit Ngilgi. Guides share Dreamtime stories, topped off by a mesmerizing didgeridoo performance.

Australia offers groups a wealth of diverse experiences in vibrant locations. Which will you choose?

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