This article originally appeared in Premium Incentive Products Magazine.

I cannot tell you how many times I have been on an incentive trip and have been given a sombrero, a set of wine glasses, a decanter, a boom box, an umbrella or a can of roasted nuts. It seems I always have something special to leave behind in my room for the housekeeping staff, and it is usually one of these thoughtless room gifts.

Not to be a grouch, but if your company is going to spend the time, energy and money to treat employees and their spouses to a wonderful trip, why would you not want to ensure the trip is special all the way through?

I have seen the pitfalls of incentive travel and heard stories from numerous people about the horrors of companies selecting the wrong gifts for their incentive trip.

To help you avoid these pitfalls, I have selected three examples of interesting and innovative gifts that went hand-in-hand with the themes of three incentive trips. I hope it helps you as you plan your next incentive travel program and look to acquire the most effective—and most appreciated—in-suite gift.

Tropical treat

When a major software company recently took its “top” producing agents and their spouses to Hawaii for two weeks, the gifts were creatively chosen to complement local activities.

The trip included a three-day weekend in Honolulu and Waikiki, a charter flight to Kauai to stay in a posh resort with spa treatments and helicopter tours, a Maui stop with sailing trips, scuba lessons and bike tours, a visit to the big island of Hawaii and volcano tours, finished off with a very restful visit to the island of Lanai, where there is nothing to do but relax. Sounds like the ultimate experience, doesn’t it?

One guest told me that the room gift selections were simply amazing. On the night of his arrival with his wife, they were treated to cocktails, hors d’oeuvres and a custom fitting by a local aloha shirt maker.

In Kauai, the room gift was a Canon camera with a 1 gigabyte card so they could take pictures on the helicopter tour. Upon their return, they found that Canon had assisted in setting up a printing station so guests could print their pictures from the tour.

The creative gifts kept coming as the agents and their spouses continued to Maui, where they were custom-fitted for Maui Jim eyewear by the Maui Jim staff. On the big island of Hawaii, they were treated to high-end binoculars from Carson Optical to better view the *volcanoes. Finally, in Lanai, they enjoyed the services of a personal masseuse in each room for three hours.

Makes me wish I had paid more attention during computer classes in college.

All-access pass

The second story does involve one of the brands I represent, but it is such a good idea that the company has repeated it for the past five years.

A very large financial institution awards its top agents with a trip to a major golf tournament. Invitations to the golf tournament are mailed out a month in advance, along with a Tommy Hilfiger watch packaged with five different colored straps. Instructions also are packaged with the watch, explaining how to wear the watch to gain access to the various events.

By using the colored straps, visitors can enter events without having to wear cumbersome ID badges. The green strap allows visitors to enter the VIP tent at the golf tournament, while the tan strap is a pass to play in the “pro-am.” The blue strap is for the pool party (the watch is also water-resistant), and the orange strap is for the post-play clubhouse gathering with celebrity golfers. The final black-tie gala dinner is entered by wearing the black strap.

Once inside the gala, a Movado watch is presented to each attendee as a special table gift.

Celebrate

The last example—and one of the best gift ideas—was for a large East Coast-based company that was celebrating 50 years in business.

The company’s annual sales meetings are always held in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., but this year, the company actually closed and took the entire staff along for the meeting to hold a big celebration.

Once the employees arrived, the owner of the company personally met and greeted each attendee and thanked them for helping him achieve this milestone. He threw a President’s Reception in the penthouse suite, where he announced that there would be no meetings—just a week of fun and frolic in the South Florida sunshine, complete with daily events like golf, scuba, sailing and shopping. His only request was that everyone relax and enjoy themselves.

When the guests returned to their rooms, they were greeted with a room gift of an iPod, Bose headphones and an Igloo Icy Tunes cooler with iPod docking station built in. Each cooler was iced down with wine and beer. Each iPod was loaded with soothing music as well as great classic beach tunes. The recipients also found an iTunes station set up in the lobby of the hotel, where each guest could stop by to load up to $25 worth of tunes into their new iPods.

Trophy value

All three of these examples prove that keeping the gift meaningful, thoughtful, useful and, most of all, worth the recipient’s time to take it home with them makes a big difference. A great gift goes so much further than leaving a sombrero and a jar of mixed nuts for the housekeeping staff to enjoy. A gift that can be used in everyday life will be a constant reminder to the recipient of the great incentive trip their company treated them to. Trophy value in gifting works wonders, and true brands intertwined with great destinations is a perfect mix.

About the Author:

Joe Zanone is Senior Vice President, Special Markets, Movado Group, Inc., and is the Immediate Past President of the Incentive Manufacturers and Representatives Alliance (IMRA). For more information, visit www.movadoincentives.com.