Travel TrendsDestinations that are light in Covid restrictions and budget are seeing a clear surge in interest, say organisers.

Incentive groups want to come out to play

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Incentive travel is poised for a highly-anticipated return as industry players report encouraging enquiries from insurance, finance and multilevel marketing organisations.

Singapore incentive travel organisers such as Applied M.I.C.E. expect a return to normalcy next year, with huge pent-demand from certain industry sectors.

According to director Benjamin Tan, insurance and banking clients are requesting for trips, “We have a small insurance group of about 30 pax who are going to Seoul this May for team-building activities. While that is not a big group, it is certainly a start after two years of non-activity.

"Next year, we have a much bigger group of over 300 going to Taipei that comprises an incentive and possibly, a conference segment. Overall, I am feeling very positive about the demand to come.”

Applied M.I.C.E. director Benjamin Tan expects a return to normalcy next year, with huge pent-demand from industry sectors such as insurance and finance.
Applied M.I.C.E. director Benjamin Tan expects a return to normalcy next year, with huge pent-demand from industry sectors such as insurance and finance.

For Melvyn Nonis, director of M.I.C.E Matters, he similarly sees interest coming back from insurance companies as well as multilevel marketing companies and banks, with a preference for long-haul destinations such as Europe and North America.

He shared that the typical five-day, four-night itinerary is now slightly longer at six days and five nights, with an average group size of 80 to 150 per group. “As compared to pre-pandemic trips, there is, for now, a focus on destinations with lots of nature and open spaces, such as Switzerland and Iceland,” said Nonis.

Both Tan and Nonis also shared that destinations with travel bubbles and vaccinated travel lane programmes are the ones to be more commonly requested by clients. “Additionally, destinations that are quick to reopen borders with the least Covid restrictions and are budget-friendly are seen as good options,” added Nonis.

Tan, who is pushing for Southeast Asia and Asia Pacific destinations such as Thailand, Australia and New Zealand, brought up important points concerning cleanliness and racism.

He stressed that while certain external factors are out of their control, especially regarding a destination’s number of Covid cases, it helps to minimise exposure to low-hygiene conditions, and in particular, the exposure to high-conflict situations such as racism in countries where it’s rampant and widespread.

“Based on the feelers I have on the ground, I would not recommend that groups go to Europe or even the US for now,” he said.

We are seeing positive demand, especially from the European market where planners are willing to promote Thailand, says Suriwipa Dalliston, MICE Manager of Asian Trails Thailand.
We are seeing positive demand, especially from the European market where planners are willing to promote Thailand, says Suriwipa Dalliston, MICE Manager of Asian Trails Thailand.

For Bangkok, an evergreen favourite of travellers, the appeal remains despite the complexities of Thailand's Test & Go procedures. "We are seeing positive demand, especially from the European market where planners are willing to promote Thailand and are looking at a time frame from Q4 of 2022 to Q2 of 2023," said Suriwipa Dalliston, MICE manager of Asian Trails Thailand.

"Phuket seems to stand out from other destinations as it is slowly getting busier and livelier than other beach destinations. Key drivers are the connectivity of international flights and an abundance list of hotels and facilities. It is clear that a beach destination is still the number one demand from our clients," said Suriwipa.

She added that requests are coming from energy, IT, pharmaceutical and agriculture companies, with group sizes that are smaller as compared to before, at about 30 to 50 pax each group. Period of stay is also longer, from five nights to seven or nine nights.

The outlook may be positive, but the challenges certainly remain and requires the industry to keep on top of constantly changing airline and destination updates, planning requirements, and a balanced perspective.

Tan brought up the issue of budgets, which may be viewed as being daunting and unrealistic. “For sure, flight fares have increased, and there is the additional cost of PCR tests that is a sore point for many; but ultimately, this is counterbalanced by small business vendors on the ground that are hungry for business.

"All in all, factoring in vendors that are accommodating and reasonable budgets, we can still put together a pretty decent incentive travel experience for our clients,” said Tan.

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