Amway wanted a one-of-a-kind offsite incentive programme to be the pinnacle of its two-day Auckland conference for members. Guests left Auckland in the early morning by coach for a pared down version of ‘The Middle-earth Trilogy’ package - experiencing the natural wonders of Waitomo Glowworm Caves, before a Maori cultural concert and lunch at Te Puia, the New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute in Rotorua. From about 5pm the coaches would then roll into the Hobbiton Movie Set near Matamata for a special tour, dinner and entertainment.

Execution

Once at Hobbiton Movie Set, the groups were met by guides who escorted the guests on their coaches through the farmland to the set. Guests were immediately immersed in the experience, with themed riders on horseback chasing the coaches. After an hour tour of the set, guests met outside The Green Dragon Inn, where they were serenaded by a folk duo on flute and guitar, with six costumed characters dressed in medieval theme available for photo opportunities. They were then ushered in for drinks before heading to the medieval-themed marquee for a buffet banquet. The pre-selected menu had been altered to include a blend of Western and Asian dishes including vegetarian options to suit the group. Following dinner there were a number of Amway speeches, followed by a Middle-earth-themed quiz with prizes. The character guides then took the group back through the set with hand-held lanterns to see the lights and chimneys of Hobbiton burning by night, before the coaches departed around 10pm.

Challenges and triumphs

Planning initially started in February, with an inspection in June, however Henry Horne, sales manager at Hobbiton, says the event was still a ‘moving target’ due to changes to registration numbers, event timing, and final budgets. Four weeks before the event the meal at Hobbiton was changed from a lunch to a dinner to make the most of the movie set by night and to allow a shorter transfer back to Auckland. The three venues also had to keep communication open. ‘It was a lot to fit into a day. Even on the day there were things that changed and we had to get up and run with them to ensure smooth running events for the clients.”

Horne notes that winning over those not familiar with the Tolkien stories was easy. “About 40% of guests have not seen the movies but Hobbiton is a living movie set which is unique. People are amazed by the stories and how much detail has gone into the set.”

Event Outcome

Horne says feedback has been very good. “They were certainly a very high spirited bunch - a lot of photo taking occurred. They liked having that exclusivity - it was theirs for the night. I had a two hour debrief, the comments were they loved the uniqueness and the service provided was outstanding. They were taken by the atmosphere - they wanted to feel special. Return on investment is a very important factor - we give them something they cannot get anywhere else in the world. We’re pretty proud of what we achieved under the circumstances. We are now planning for another incentive where we have 500 on set at one time, which is very exciting.”