Incentive programme has NZ workers dancing on top of Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Employers are going to new heights to boost worker performance - dancing on top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge being one of them.

Not your usual workplace for sure, but for 20 Kiwi achievers, scaling Sydney's iconic bridge came as a reward and recognition for a job well done.

Clad in LED vests they climbed to the top of the 134m structure and danced the night away on a specially designed platform as part of the world's largest outdoor light festival, Vivid Sydney.

Their experience is an example of a growing "money can't buy" trend in incentive programmes; one in which business event planners are looking to up the ante with new and unique experiences to help boost staff productivity.

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The dancing Kiwis - the top 20 sales performers at an Auckland-based IT firm - were taken to Sydney for the event billed as a place where light, music and creative ideas intersect.

Sydney is not the only Australian city getting in on the act - sports-mad Melbourne also has a range of corporate hospitality packages available around events like the Australian Tennis Open and Australian Grand Prix.

To the year ended in June, New Zealanders were the fourth largest group of spenders in Australia - and provided the largest number of visitors. In the same period the International Visitor Survey (IVS) showed 194,000 Kiwis went to Australia for business - and to attend business events - spending $A410 million.

Internationally these programmes have been shown to benefit work performance. A 2010 report by the US-based Incentive Research Foundation, found incentive programmes can boost performance by anywhere from 25 to 44 per cent.

The report - which involved academics from both the University of Southern California and the University of Central Florida - said if implemented and monitored correctly the programmes increase performance by an average of 22 per cent, with team incentives producing lifts of up to 44 per cent.

"Incentive programmes also attract and help retain higher quality workers," the report said.

Vivid Sydney, launched just nine years ago, is one of Australia's major event in winter and the New Zealand team's climb up the Sydney bridge had them dancing their way into the opening night show with the lights of the city and hundreds of thousands of festival-goers beneath them.

Katie Bowden-Tregoat, events project manager at Dinamics, a Queenstown-based event management company, says the Kiwi delegates were taken over on Friday morning and given free time to go shopping.

"We then took them up the bridge - which a lot of them hadn't done before - starting early so they reached the top in time for the festival opening," she says.

"BridgeClimb provided the group with LED vests; as they climbed to the top and all the lights came on across the city, their vests also lit up and for five minutes they were actually part of the Vivid show.

"When they came back down they were buzzing," Bowden-Tregoat says.

The programme continued with a gourmet food tour across Sydney's inner west suburbs - "which they adored because it's a side of Sydney they had never seen before. We had them tasting all the local delicacies.

"That night we hired an exclusive yacht for a dinner cruise so they got to see Vivid Sydney from the water, and afterwards they walked back through the streets to be amongst it all," she says.

Put up at the Intercontinental Hotel, the delegates enjoyed drinks from the rooftop terrace, looking at the lights one last time before flying out the following morning.
Bowden-Tregoat says the opportunity was popular and the company already has it "on the cards again for next year."

Other events in Australia are offering corporate hospitality packages including the Australian Tennis Open in January. Groups have the chance to sit courtside at Rod Laver Arena, enjoying gourmet cuisine and drinks just metres from where Roger Federer or Venus Williams are serving and volleying.

After the day's play they can dine on-court at Hisense Arena, with guest appearances by tennis legends; or, for the elite, be entertained in the Green Room, up close to the tournament winners as they make their way along the Walk of Champions for their first post-match interview.

At the Australian Grand Prix, where the action is louder and faster, the opportunities are just as intense. Premier entertainment includes the Formula One Paddock Club, directly above the Ferrari, McLaren and other team garages.

Once-in-a-lifetime rewards - or maybe twice if you're on a good run with the boss - include the chance to walk the pit lane each day.

Most incentive business from New Zealand to Australia is from the healthcare, finance and construction industries and last year Australia attracted about 200,000 business visitors.