Incentive travel logistics don’t get much more demanding than the prospect of handling 12,000 guests, so April’s nine-day mega event for Forever Living Products took some planning. Almost two years’ worth, in fact.

Back in mid-2015, host destination Dubai was among five cities to bid for the event, which would see the US-based company—known for selling aloe vera products—bring in people from more than 100 different countries for its annual Global Rally.

Dubai won the pitch, thanks to a bid that also incorporated one of the emirate’s key MICE venues. “As a major incentive group, Forever Living had been on our radar for some time,” says Steen Jakobsen, director of Dubai Business Events. “We put together a proposal which highlighted Dubai’s ability to host the event, both in terms of key hygiene factors and what helps it stand out as a destination. Our presentation included a proposal from Dubai World Trade Centre, which would be the venue for the Global Rally.”

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Dubai’s recent history, which has seen it transform into a modern metropolis over a relatively short space of time, also helped in securing the event. It was seen by Forever Living as chiming with one of the week’s overall aims, which was to motivate their employees into thinking big and transforming their sales figures.

The incentive was one of the largest ever to be held in the United Arab Emirates, with Dubai DMC Arabian Adventures overseeing the mass organisation of the itinerary. The CEO of Dubai Tourism, Issam Kazim, emphasises that the attendees were seen as more than just numbers. “With many, if not most, of them first-time visitors here, it was important they experienced the best the city has to offer,” he says.


Creativity

The DMC worked with the Forever Living events team for more than 18 months to fine-tune the programme, which involved splitting qualifying attendees by nationality into four different hotels. One of these was the JW Marriott Marquis, while the three other properties form part of the nearby Al Habtoor City complex—namely The Westin, W Hotel and The St. Regis Dubai.

Those attending the event were graded into tiers according to their individual sales figures, with more perks granted to the highest qualifiers. The itinerary involved a number of workshops and off-site activities, as well as the two-day Global Rally.

There was a prominent reward element to the overall week, with certain qualifying guests receiving pre-loaded Visa Debit cards that could be used for purchases across Dubai, as well as cash withdrawals at ATMs.


Features of the week included a visit to the Aquaventure Waterpark at Atlantis The Palm and a trip out to the Rub’ al Khali desert in off-road vehicles. But Justine Thomas-Butler, head of the meetings, incentives and events division at Arabian Adventures, points to the annual Chairman’s Bonus Party as the itinerary’s creative highlight.

“We held it at the Jumeirah Beach Hotel Events Arena,” she explains. “It saw a 30-second countdown and the company’s logo projected onto the front of the Burj al Arab, followed by fireworks. At this point 700 top sellers were able to open their annual bonus cheques—a huge moment of excitement."


Challenges

The sheer scale of the event meant attention to detail was paramount—particularly as both the destination and the DMC wanted to showcase Dubai in the best possible light.

“Dubai’s not just about business, and we wanted to give Forever Living's guests, all 12,000 of them, a taste of the possibilities on offer in the UAE,” continues Thomas-Butler. “When you’re dealing with large events it becomes even more about planning, including having contingencies in place.”


These included extensive briefing sessions and training for the 100 drivers of luxury coaches and 125 drivers of off-road vehicles who were involved in the itinerary. “People want to experience the wonders of the UAE, not be sitting on a coach and our key objective was to minimise both wait and transfer times,” says Thomas-Butler.

And the careful planning paid off, as Forever Living vice-president, global events, Nick Woodward-Shaw, attests: “Dubai delivered excitement, surprise, luxury and inspiration to every one of our 12,000 guests. The destination has a support network and infrastructure that can comfortably deal with very large groups like our own.”