MAKING THE CONNECTION
The seed for the BMW program in Bora Bora was planted back in December 2014 by Nancy Marino, the resort’s Associate Director of Sales since 2012. “I invited Raymond Brown, the BMW MINI Account Manager at TPG, to come on a familiarization trip. I knew if Ray saw our resort and destination, he would fall in love and realize it would be a perfect fit for BMW.”
Raymond gives significant credit to Nancy’s own magnetism. “Nancy is one of those terrific sales people who knows she is selling an experience rather than just a resort. I could feel her passion for the island. It was obvious she had a genuine connection to the local people, just from the way she spoke with everyone she ran into. I came away from the FAM trip charmed by the island, its people and the standard of Four Seasons service.”
SURMOUNTING THE CHALLENGES
BMW typically doesn’t select destinations that require long travel – and Bora Bora is an eight-and-a-half-hour flight from Los Angeles. However, Nancy had demonstrated why the resort experience was worth the journey.
There was also a concern that the only destination on the island was Four Seasons, while typically BMW has chosen more diverse city and resort locations. The TPG team needed to know that the resort would be interesting enough over a five-night program, recognizing that guests would be experiencing many of the same venues multiple times – for dine-arounds and beach activities.
“We responded to their concerns by pushing our level of creativity,” says Nancy. “There were definite challenges, given our remote location. We sourced new suppliers to bring in different furniture and décor, enabling us to create entirely new experiences each day. We suggested non-traditional spaces and brainstormed clever ideas for activities that we hadn’t done before.”
After detailed discussions, Four Seasons was awarded the business in March 2016.
PARTNERSHIP IN PLANNING
Planning and refinement continued from a site inspection in December 2016 right up until the June 10 start date. TPG worked closely with Sophie Tantet, the resort’s Assistant Director of Catering, to design a custom program. As Sophie says, “Our goal was to wow the group every day with unexpected music, décor and food, giving them the diversity of a big city here in our faraway resort.”
According to Ray, “It was very important to us that we were working with a team of four or five Four Seasons people, representing every department at the resort. We knew they were fully dedicated to our event. Very quickly, it felt like our TPG team became embedded with the Four Seasons team. That helped ensure that results happened fast.”
FOCUS ON THE DETAILS
As Ray says, “What’s so special about BMW is the company’s focus on details. That parlays into the types of hotels we choose for events and the kinds of experiences we create.”
One example of that thoughtful detail was when guests checked into their overwater bungalow. Everyone received an inflatable, such as a pink flamingo, as a welcome amenity. Most people tied them outside – with the brilliantly coloured pool toys seeming to glow as they floated in the aquamarine water.
TPG also created a hospitality suite with two hair stylists who had been flown in for the event. They helped women get ready quickly for the evening – without worrying about “beach head” – creating braids, weaves and adding exotic floral crowns. The service was hugely popular and it became a real talking point at all the events.
Each evening, each guest received a Polynesian-themed turndown gift, conjuring the destination in either a sensory or visceral way. One night there was Monoi oil derived from locally grown coconuts – providing a spectacular skin and hair conditioner. There were Tahitian vanilla beans accompanied by a vanilla-infused dessert from the resort’s pastry chef, and also a hand-painted pareo (wraparound skirt) featuring the colours of the lagoon.
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE TRIP
The itinerary balanced lavish evening events with plenty of time for independent activities, spa treatments and dining at the various restaurants – all available for pre-booking before arrival.
One of the highlights was on the second day – the first full day on property – when everyone was being initiated in the local culture. There was a midday catamaran sail, landing at a small motu (island) where a barbecue lunch had already been set up. People were able to eat while wading in the water – a rare, tropical experience. That evening’s dinner had a Tahitian theme with traditional cuisine and a show featuring local musicians and dancers.
The fourth night was a gala party, taking over the fine-dining restaurant, Arii Moana. The natural wood interior was elevated with chic contemporary décor – flown in just for the event – and plentiful gardenias. The style was sophisticated and elegant. After dinner, everyone headed to an after party in an open-air pavilion, where lounge furniture and white lanterns set a cool tropical mood. There was a live DJ with great music and fun dancing. The resort’s mixologist served up delicious cocktails created for each evening, including the BMW Mojito and the Mai Tai Roa.
THE FINAL NIGHT
The unexpected highlight of the week was the final night, when guests were introduced for the first time to the Presidential Villa, a spectacular setting with its own private pool. It was like they were transported out of the resort into someone’s private home with a back yard right on the beach.
After all the excitement in the days before, everyone immediately connected to the relaxed, laid-back ambience. The menu featured live cooking stations, inspired by the resort chef’s Mexican origins. Many guests rolled up their pants and put their feet in the pool, chatting with friends old and new.
Ray remembers that it was a great bonding moment, with lots of areas for private conversations where guests could share memories of the week. “We built a bonfire on the beach. We also had some retro games, such as corn hole, bocce ball and life-size Jenga. It all felt casual and comfortable, yet still elegant and elevated – encapsulating the mood of the whole Four Seasons stay.”
A UNITED FAREWELL
The next day, as guests were boarding the boat back to the airport, the whole resort team came out to the pier to say goodbye – offering huge smiles and a unique raised-arm waving ritual. The TPG team joined in, and no one could tell who was Four Seasons and who was TPG. As Ray says, “It was a beautiful moment, showing how much our teams had joined together for the event. I think we demonstrated the value of being Strategic Partners – where we’re all learning from each other and helping each other become better at what we do.”
With the event complete, Nancy admits, “BMW and TPG truly tested the limits of our quiet, remote island paradise, but in the end, we collectively rose to the challenge and succeeded in an incredible way. I am so genuinely proud of our Four Seasons team!”
RECEIVING RAVE REVIEWS
The Four Seasons event received rave reviews from guests and organizers. The most important indicator was the satisfaction of the BMW executive team. Ray points out, “It was obvious that we had delivered a once-in-a-lifetime experience for each attendee – elevated in a way that no individual could experience on their own. Only being a member of this elite BMW group could provide this opportunity.”
Survey responses were high compared to other locations in the past.
“The experience exceeded my expectations. Service was spectacular.” “Thank you for all the hard work and effort. It was a great trip.”
One of the surest signs of success was that many guests immediately began making plans to return to the resort with friends and family, so they could share the experience with loved ones.
The ultimate compliment came from Trudy Hardy, Vice President, Marketing, BMW of North America, LLC: “Our Four Seasons Bora Bora experience has ruined me for all future travel experiences. I mean that in the most flattering way. Every corner we turned, there was another surprise waiting for us – from the views, to the facilities, to the pools and lagoons. Add to that the top-notch service, and it made for the most incredible journey. My ‘bucket-list’ destination has now become a ‘must-go-back’ mission.”
The Bora Bora incentive trip demonstrated the synergy between two world-leading brands – BMW and Four Seasons – orchestrated by the masterful skill and creativity of TPG.