Global Incentive Summit Spotlights Sicilian Culture and New Challenges for Planners

The Italian city of Palermo provided a magnifico setting for experiences, education, networking and, of course, dining.


Northstar Meetings Group’s Global Incentive Summit, held on Sicily, Italy’s largest island, drew 160 international incentive travel planners and suppliers. With nearly half of U.S. planners considering Europe as a destination for their future incentive travel programs, the event was an apt introduction to Sicily’s abundant charms, lovely climate and bellissimi venues.

Two stunning Palermo properties — the 100-room Villa Igiea, a Rocco Forte Hotel, and the 102-room Grand Hotel et Des Palmes — hosted the event, while the luxurious 168-room Verdura Resort, a Rocco Forte property on the other side of Sicily, welcomed the group for a full day during the three-day event.

The changing nature of buyer-supplier relationships — and strategies for strengthening those ties — were discussed during a candid, interactive education session held at Verdura.

Moderated by Fred Edson, director of incentive sales for Discover Puerto, the session revealed planners' frustrations:  that some hotels’ now require 100 percent deposits when they book; that resort fees and other “hidden” fees are rising; that there is a lack of consistency in service at same-brand hotels; and that hotels are asking for registration lists much earlier than in the past. 

Hoteliers voiced their frustration with planners — and planners’ bosses — as well, complaining about how the contract process is being dragged out. One solution suggested by a buyer: Let the boss lose out on a few properties to teach them a lesson.

Francesca Planeta, scion of Sicily’s oldest winery, was the featured speaker on the final day of the Global Incentive Summit. After welcoming participants with a glass of her own sparkling Prosecco, she regaled the group with how the island's history and topography have influenced the island’s delicious cuisine and wines.

The rest of the packed agenda included one-on-one appointments for the suppliers and buyers; authentic local experiences (pastry-making, folk dancing, tile painting, wine-tasting); city tours that took participants into artisan workshops and into hidden corners of Palermo; and three unique evenings of music and fantastic food.

Grazie mille to our generous partners for our 2022 Global Incentive Summit: Rocco Forte Hotels, Italian National Tourism Board,Grand Hotel et Des Palmes, Club Med, Discover Puerto Rico, Fourth Dimension, Mutika EMC, PR Incentives, Planeta Winery, Meet in Ireland, Maui Jim, PC/Nametag and Aventri.

The following photographs, made by Ketara Gadahn of Studio Alani, capture some of the event's highlights.

Day One

Ciao, Palermo! The fascinating, historic city on the Mediterranean provided a beautiful backdrop for the event.

Attendees sampled Italian wines and dishes during the opening reception at Villa Igiea, a Rocco Forte resort, which served as a host property.

Performers garbed in period costumes entertained the group with opera selections and waltzes.

Day Two

Discover Puerto Rico’s Fred Edson moderated the lunchtime session on buyer-supplier strategies at Verdura Resort, a Rocco Forte property on the other side of Sicily.

It’s tarantella time! Guests experienced traditions, such as the Sicilian dance, as well as tile-painting, wine-tasting and stuffing/decorating cannoli pastry during the afternoon at Verdura.

The evening’s dinner was held at Masseria La Chiusa, a traditional Italian farmhouse.

Mangia tutti! The extensive menu featured the best of Sicilian cuisine.

Day Three

Local winemaker Francesca Planeta explained how the island’s history shaped its cuisine and wines.

Buyers and suppliers met for morning one-on-one appointments at Villa Igiea.

Participants took in-depth tours of Palermo — on foot or in open-air Ape cars — during the final afternoon.

Arrivederci, Sicily! The farewell gala was held at the baroque-style Villa Boscogrande.