Each year I am #blessed to plan an annual international incentive event for an insurance agency based out of Kirkland, WA. I have been their event planner for over six years now and have gone all around the world with them. The destinations are always different, but the core program stays the same – I get to plan a four-day, four-night trip to a dreamy location filled with lavish welcome swag, fun dinners, tour options, and entertainment for their top sales team! I always contract a 5-star hotel or resort, and depending on the year I have between 80 – 120 guests as a part of the group. The event is one of my favorite weeks of every year! In the past six years we have gone to Costa Rica (Guanacaste), Buenos Aires, Argentina, St. Kitts in the Caribbean, Dublin, Ireland and Lake Como in Italy. I am crazy lucky and super grateful for this gig! It allows me to plan events AND travel – two of my favorite things!!
You know what they say- Paris is always a good idea!- so this past spring, that is exactly where we went! And I have to say, I think it was my favorite event yet!! I contracted the Westin Paris Vendome Hotel, which, in my opinion, has the best location of any 5-star property in the city. It is across the street from the Louvre and Tuileries Garden in the 1st arrondissement of Paris. Within a few minutes walk in one direction you are at the Champs-Élysées & Arc de Triomphe, and if you walk a few minutes in the other direction, you are at the Notre Dame Cathedral, River Seine, and the Latin Quarter. Absolutely perfect for a group like mine who wants to explore the city!
Each couple was welcomed at the airport with a black Mercedes S550 waiting for them to take them to the Westin. Upon arriving at the hotel they checked in at the company welcome desk and received their swag bags and details regarding the event. Putting together the welcome bag of goodies is one of my favorite parts about the trip! I like to incorporate local items from wherever we go, plus some useful travel items. In this years bag I included a few Parisian essentials like a bottle of champagne, a box of macarons from Laduree, chocolates from La Mere di Famille, and a travel set from L’Occitane. Also included was a portable cell phone charger, an XY Findable set, two pre-stamped Paris-themed postcards and some paper goods like the welcome book, agenda, a city map, and their tour schedule.
Amanda Fredericks of Red Sparrow Design created the design for all of the creatives. She incorporated Parisian landmarks for the welcome book, name badges, thank you cards and promotional materials. She used the same font for the ‘You Had Me at Bonjour’ welcome tote bags. So cute!!
On our first night we had a welcome cocktail in the atrium of the hotel with an accordion player and then moved into their Imperial Ballroom for our welcome reception. The ballroom is a historical site inside of the hotel and based on the photos I think you can see why! It was stunning!! The pillars, the chandeliers, the velvet walls – everything in the room was beyond gorgeous! We had a retro three-piece band and singer to entertain the group during dinner and then a handful of dancers joined the act. They pulled guests out of their seats and showed them some moves – it was super fun!!
During the days I had scheduled optional tours around the city and surrounding area. We have quite a few art enthusiasts so private tours to the Louvre and Orsay Museum were big hits. A group also went to Claude Monet’s home to see his gardens and the quaint village of Giverny, which was so lovely! One day I took a group to the Palace of Versailles which was amazing! We went through the palace and throughout the gardens before having lunch at the restaurant along one of the many ponds. Other private tour options included a city tour to see the major sites and a walking tour through the neighborhood of Montmartre.
On our farewell night I wanted to show the guests something special so I took them on a river cruise on the Seine. The boat was perfect for the occasion! The top deck was open air and the weather was ideal for cocktail hour! The boat’s captain drove us to the Statue of Liberty (the original!) and the Eiffel Tower for a photo op! Each couple had their picture taken as a fun keepsake! And as you can see, some had more fun with it than others!
The lower deck of the boat where dinner was served was modern with white tablecloths and mirage chairs, so I added some red, white, and blue wool berets and some French flags along with some local red & white flowers in bud vases to play up the Parisian look. Guests were able to keep the berets as a take away gift and many wore them throughout the night.
During cocktail hour and dinner we rode up the Seine and saw all of the major sites along the river like the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, the Orsay, the Grand & Petite Palais, the Conciergerie and Notre Dame in the daylight. By the time dinner was complete we were headed back and saw all of these sites lit up in the dark. It was perfect! Many guests went to the top of the boat and enjoyed the view while others danced along with the DJ. It was a fantastic way to end the trip!!
Next spring we are off to Rome! Paris will be a hard act to follow, but I have a few tricks up my sleeve and am ready for the challenge!!