We were lucky enough to nab precious time with Jeanie Docherty, President of Docherty Incentives & Meetings. Discover what encourages her in the travel incentive industry, her favorite place on earth, where to find the best wine, the most luxurious beaches and some surprising insights into this powerful, kind and on-the-go woman.
When did you realize that working in the travel incentive industry was your passion?
I grew up with my dad in the incentive travel business. We traveled as kids and I always had an infatuation with travel. I graduated from college with a degree in Retail Merchandising. I enjoyed this career immensely but as I had my third child, and decided to leave my current position, I was asked to travel staff with groups. The rest is history. It not only renewed the travel bug in me, but ignited a passion to serve others on the award trips they earned.
What is the biggest reward as President of Docherty Incentives & Meetings?
I feel blessed to work with the amazing team of professionals at Docherty. I don't say that lightly. I truly respect each one of our team. We all play a role in the development of programs and depend on one another as a team to get the job done. It takes a village.
What is the biggest challenge?
Airlines represent the biggest challenge for us today. The rules change constantly, fees are added daily and seats are harder to assign. Very frustrating as the airlines are part of the hospitality industry but you would never know this.
You travel so much for Docherty...what is one destination you're always excited to return to and why?
I have to say Ireland. And ironically, I am on a flight just now returning from Ireland. The beauty of the country, the assortment of top notch city hotels, fabulous manor houses, country estates, activities, venues and most importantly the warmth of the people make this a special place in my heart. As the saying goes: "There are no strangers in Ireland, only friends you haven't met yet."
What is your secret to getting through long flights?
I am a high-energy person so I find keeping "busy" on flights helps me. I am grateful for internet as I work a lot on flights. And I always travel with my iPad which allows me to read books on iBooks, play Sudoku and do puzzles (jigsaw bug app). I also get up and walk the aisles a lot. I can't let my Fitbit friends get ahead of me on steps J.
Food is an enticing part of world travel...what is a meal or a dish or a dessert (or all of the above!) that you will never forget?
I love healthy, organic foods. I am also a fish and vegetable lover. My favorite and most memorable fish dishes are from Grand Case in St. Martin. They are known as the Gastronomic Capital of the Caribbean. Blackened Swai fish is a favorite there. And the breakfast buffets in Peru cannot be topped. They have basic breakfast foods, a "detox" corner, healthy grains and fresh juices and smoothies: So healthy and refreshing. Great way to start your day. And one more memorable dish is the raw tuna, tomato, onion "fish salad" in Tahiti. I ate it six days straight. Simply amazing!
When you're not traveling, what does the perfect weekend look like for you?
I love a relaxing Friday night at home or happy hour with friends (gets me home early). Saturday morning always finds me with my run club: Team R.E.D. In the summer months I may inline skate or bike in the afternoon and in the winter months some ski time is awesome. Saturday night I love live music and Sundays you will find me ushering at Westwood Community Church, serving and worshipping. I love to get out Sunday afternoons to enjoy more fresh air and end the weekend with a fabulous home cooked meal.
When you are hunting for the best destinations on the planet to send rewards recipients, what do you look for? Are there clear winners or obvious signs a place is not quite ready to receive guests?
When looking at new destinations, there are many factors. These days one of the most important factors is air lift. Cost of the flight, number of connections and flight times are important to getting guests to a destination. Then we look at value for money, hotel infrastructure, weather, activities, shopping, ease of getting around, transfer times, visas, etc. These all play into the overall ability of a destination to be a great incentive choice. Incentives should offer mystique or sex appeal also.
Destinations such as Bora Bora, South Africa or Russia offer huge appeal as an incentive as they are exotic or perhaps a destination that you want to go to but do not want to plan or go on as an individual traveler. Having these types of destinations planned for you as well as traveling with a team of professionals who guide you is a true incentive.
I also feel that incentive travel should offer an event within a destination that you cannot do on your own. For example, you can go to Beijing, but you cannot have dinner on the Great Wall. You can go to Disney but you cannot go to the park after it is closed and enjoy the park and dinner exclusively with your private group
We also look at the group profile, do they like relaxation, soft adventure, high adventure? What is their budget? Age of the group? We custom tailor each group.
And as far as signs that a destination is not ready for incentive groups? One destination that comes to mind is Cuba. Many clients are inquiring about this destination yet we feel it is not ready for incentives. The hotels and service are nowhere near incentive-quality standards. And while it sounds like travel has "opened up" to Cuba, the reality is there are still many rules and regulations to get in to Cuba. And this equates to making this destination expensive. This will most definitely be an up and coming destination in the future. Stay tuned.
Any tips for overcoming language barriers?
We are blessed to work with some amazing Destination Management Companies (DMCs) that assist us with language barriers. The guides they hire are so important to our groups as they are a big help with language barriers. And technology is important. I have a translator app on my smart phone that is invaluable. I once worked with an A/V company that spoke no English and my Spanish is marginal (but I am working on it) but we communicated through the app to get the event set up.
You must be an expert packer by now...do you need to make packing lists or can you pack and leave in 30 minutes and remember everything?
I do not have a pre set "list" to pack but there are definitely basics that I pack. Each destination gives me something different to pack so I base it on that. Hot destination, rainy, high adventure, city events, etc. I buy all my toiletries in duplicate. This way I can pack in advance and have my case ready to go the night before a trip. And always remember those phone, iPad and laptop chargers!
That being said...if you could only bring 5 things with you on an international trip besides the clothes on your back, what 5 things would you bring?
My electronics and chargers, comfortable shoes, an eagerness to meet new people and embrace new cultures, a grateful attitude and my smile. When traveling to a foreign destination, I am happiest when I see people embracing a destination and their culture. It is disappointing when people travel and expect it to be like home. You should always stretch outside of your comfort zone and learn and grow with travel. This is what makes us grow closer globally; appreciating and understanding our differences and similarities.
In your opinion and experience in 2016...
...where can the best wine be found? South Africa, Chile, Argentina, France, Italy and of course California.
...what was the most relaxing beach you visited? Providenciales, Turks and Caicos. And the snorkeling at Princess Alexandra National Park off the beach is fabulous. Amazing coral, exotic fish and giant sea turtles all add to the beauty of this park.
...what was the biggest surprise during travel? That with all of the differences in cultures, we are deep down all the same.
So many people have world destinations on their bucket list...do you? Are there places you want to visit but haven't, yet?
I have not been to Greece or Australia and they are on my bucket list. I have been to Rome but want to experience more of Italy. And I am looking forward to experiencing Argentina this year with friends. A bucket list in the U.S. for me was the Grand Canyon. I experienced camping, hiking and rafting this beautiful part of the world this past summer. I highly recommend it for the adventurous type.
If you could only relive 5 minutes from one of your travels, which 5 minutes would they be?
My safari experience in the bush of South Africa. This was the most life changing experiences of my life. Put it on your bucket list!