Fly Away to A Corporate Retreat
Mar. 03, 2016
Vegas. A fancy restaurant for dinner and drinks. Expensive tickets to a show your customer may or may not like. Options for a corporate outing or reward incentive trip for top employees can feel limited sometimes, and after a while the same old thing starts to feel like … well, the same-old thing.
To flip the norm on its head and reward their top performers with an experience unlike any other, the folks at Komatsu America Corporation took a corporate crew to Aikens Lake Wilderness Lodge in 2008. The trip was such a big success they’ve come back multiple times in the years since and are excited to return to Aikens this summer with a group of 32.
Extreme luxury, personal guides and fabulous fishing in Manitoba’s remote wilderness. Five-star service and gourmet food at a remote fly-in lodge that feels a world away but can be reached from anywhere within the U.S. in a single day. It all adds up to the most talked about and requested incentive trip Komatsu has ever done.
“Other than Key West, it’s the only incentive trip we’ve ever repeated,” said Mike Kunin, Director of Parts Sales and Marketing at Komatsu. “Everyone who’s gone on the trip has loved it.”
“Mike is a super nice guy, and they’ve had some pretty awesome fishing, too,” said Pit Turenne, co-owner and general manager of Aikens. “We always have a great time with them when they’re here. They insist on buying drinks for our staff and they treat us like we’re really part of their team.”
Before they ever landed on Aikens, Komatsu was looking for a fly-in fishing lodge with high-end accommodations that could be rented out exclusively. Travel Manitoba was kind enough to recommend us, and during their first visit here Mike said it was abundantly clear how uniquely perfect the Aikens Experience is for a corporate trip.
“People are torn between is the non-fishing time more fun or is the fishing time more fun?” Mike said. “You’re sitting there eating gourmet meals, drinking whatever you want, getting waited on. And everybody catches fish. Non-fishermen have caught Master Angler walleyes and Master Angler pike. The fishing is outstanding.”
Last time Komatsu came to Aikens, the group caught five official Manitoba trophy fish, including a 30-inch walleye Neil Thie caught the very first evening––a day that began by boarding a plane to Winnipeg and continued with being chauffeured in a catered bus to our base camp and experiencing the sensation of flying over Atitaki Provincial Park in a float plane.
The group also recorded seven Century Club awards that trip, which made it hard to pick which photos to include in their report (this write-up doesn’t even include photos from their 2008 or 2011 trips). Each person kept a pan-size walleye or two for the daily shorelunch, when the entire group met up for a feast at our Great Gray Owl facility.
“The corporate shorelunch is a really big deal,” Mike said. “It’s a big group, so it’s nice to all connect at lunch and eat together. People love watching the guides clean the fish and seeing the seagulls eat the scraps.”
After lunch, some people head back to the lodge to relax and play pool, while others go back out for more fishing. “They’re so accommodating, there’s no pressure from the guides to fish more––the whole experience is entirely tailored to whatever you want to do,” said Mike, noting that the Komatsu crew loves the camaraderie and feeling of having Aikens all to themselves.
Any group of 24 or greater has the chance to get Aikens all to themselves and experience exclusive use of all the cabins and amenities at both the main lodge and Great Gray Owl cabin. That includes the handling of all travel logistics and any special requests.
“My favorite part of this whole thing is doing something special for a guest and seeing their reaction,” said Julie Turenne, co-owner and general manager of Aikens. “We’re able to plan anything if we know in advance. Whether it’s bringing in a certain type of drink or stocking up on someone’s favorite snack, it’s our pleasure to arrange that. I pride myself on doing those extra little things.”
None of which is lost on the Komatsu crew. “You run the place when you’re there,” said Mike, who’s also brought his father and nephew on personal trips to Aikens. “You go into the bar and you take whatever you want, because everything’s all inclusive. You’re the only guests there. The staff welcomes you at the dock, and they know everyone’s name within a couple hours of you being there. It goes back to having whatever you want to do, whenever you want to do it.”
Behind all of Aikens’ options and highly tailored, personalized service lies an invaluable secret for corporate groups. At Aikens, you’re all alone with the people you want to be with; distractions, traffic and conflicting meetings are left back at home.
“The most unique thing that Aikens has going for it, is that we have a captive audience there,” Mike said. “We bring winners of our sales contest there, so we can talk about sales and business for a little bit and they’re captive. They can’t go to the casino, or go to dinner at 13 different restaurants, or split up all across a big city.”
Indeed, the chance to fly away from distractions back home and into this beautiful setting is appealing to many of our repeat corporate groups. There’s no cell phone reception at Aikens, so you don’t have to fight for people’s attention over text messages and obsessive phone-checking. (We do have free WiFi to stay connected, and groups are welcome to use our phone if needed for a business call).
“The facetime at Aikens is unbeatable,” said Patrick Trudel, part-owner and sales manager at Aikens. “Whether you’re out on the water with your customer or enjoying a fresh shorelunch or Happy Hour at Big Molly’s Bar, the atmosphere at Aikens is very conducive to relaxing and building relationships with the people you’re sharing the experience with.”
“It’s a great place to build relationships,” Mike said. “Every trip, there’s some funny fishing story or anecdote everyone remembers. Whatever you want to do at Aikens, it works. They make it real easy.”