From once-in-a-lifetime incentive programs in Buenos Aires, Argentina and Scottsdale, Arizona to the rise of event technology and a special focus on wellness, 2018 has been an amazing, jam-packed year for our event team. As the year draws to a close, we’re sharing our favorite destinations and event trends, our biggest planning pet peeves and what we expect from the event world in 2019.
What were some of the most memorable Castle event destinations this year?
- Buenos Aires, Argentina. This spring, Castle designed and executed an exclusive program to Buenos Aires, a city that is a unique mix of European and South American culture. Attendees had the opportunity to experience an authentic working estancia (ranch) in the countryside, as well as enjoy the latest food trends and cocktail bars in this bustling metropolis.
- Scottsdale, Arizona. The city lent itself well to western-themed evening events, adventurous desert activities and wine tasting. We live in a beautiful country with a variety of incentive options that can be just as exciting as destinations further afield, and are easier to get to!
- Budapest, Hungary. This is an incredible opportunity for an upcoming corporate incentive program. The city truly has something for everyone—from the adventure-seeker to the historian to those looking for some time to relax and rejuvenate.
- Lisbon, Portugal! Portugal is a feast for the senses and seems to be on every travel lover’s radar right now. From quiet seaside fishing villages to bustling city streets, awe-inspiring urban art to museums and architectural wonders, Portugal’s mix of Old-World charm and modern conveniences offer a truly eclectic travel experience. The cuisine goes way beyond its legendary Port wine, tinned seafood and custard tarts. Lisbon’s food scene is exploding—and considered one of the most exciting in Europe right now. What did I love the most about Lisbon? Surprisingly, it was the stone walkways with their elaborate mosaic patterns leading us past old buildings marked with murals of urban art and graffiti. It felt oddly right—and was like stepping back and seeing the future at the same time.
- Half-Moon Bay, California, located on the Pacific Coast just 23 miles from downtown San Francisco, is a magical inlet of crashing waves, steep cliffs, forested hills and sandy beaches. With its historic downtown, art galleries, beaches and restaurants, it’s the perfect place to unwind. October in Half Moon Bay brings a gorgeous mild climate in the high 60’s, where beautiful crisp nights lend themselves to crystal clear skies and cozy fire pits, which the Ritz-Carlton fully embraces with homemade s’mores kits and blankets available for those who want to enjoy the fresh air. My favorite feature of the property was the evening bagpiper, a perfect serenade for the beautiful sunset!
What was your favorite event trend for 2018?
- Engagement! Event professionals are putting an amplified focus into making meetings and events more interactive and engaging for attendees. From the ability to choose your own agenda to virtual game meeting breaks, the events industry is finding ever-growing ways to help attendees feel like they were truly immersed in the program.
- Health and wellness. From yoga sessions and 5k runs to health conscious menu choices, companies are prioritizing the mental and physical health of their employees more than ever.
- While it came from a place of necessity, this year’s focus on security was valuable for attendees and planners alike. Having a contingency plan is nothing new, but the introduction of GDPR, and the media attention surrounding violence at recent concerts and events, gave everyone a chance to reimagine the role security (information/data and physical safety) plays in event planning.
- More progress on creating sustainable events (paper straws, composting, repurposing, etc.) and incorporating mindfulness into meetings
What was your biggest event pet peeve in 2018?
- Bacon had its moment – let’s move on, shall we?
- The new hotel commission structure for the larger brands.
- Colorful house linens! Planners would much prefer a basic white or black house linen over navy blues and browns. Having non-traditional house linen limits the themes you can execute on a tight budget.
- Many hotels are now moving toward banquet menus of the day. Venues will often charge a surcharge for menus that do not align with their pre-selected menu for that day of the week. As an event planner this forces you to choose between budget and creativity with your program delicacies. I can’t even taco bout it….oh wait, that was Monday’s menu.
- Event signage – either the lack thereof or improper placement.
- When vendors and destination management companies are not up-front about additional costs and fees.
What meeting and event trends do you anticipate seeing in 2019?
- Cannabis – Castle’s own Paige wrote a great blog about it, but with legalization spreading throughout the U.S., and now with our neighbors to the north, I expect we will only see the use of marijuana at events increase.
- Overstimulation seems to be driving people back to shorter agendas, simple/clean designs and straight-forward programming.
- Technology, technology, technology!! From RFID wristbands to virtual and augmented reality, technology will continue to integrate into all kinds of events from site inspection to on-site execution. Technological innovations have woven their way through the entire event planning process from registration through execution. On a functional level, technological advances will soon allow attendees to do things like check in through eye-scanning technology or hear sessions translated to 50 languages in real time. From the planning perspective, there are countless benefits like streamlined communication with attendees through new applications and heat mapping to track attendee flow
Watch this space later this week! Our PR colleagues will be sharing their top media moments of the year, reviewing the state of social media and sharing their biggest PR pet peeves.