Tighter budgets and rising costs mean the business events sector is working harder to win work. Marissa Fernandez, managing director of widely respected company Destination Marketing Services (DMS), offers this salutary advice to incentive and events planners.
1. Is it good value – and different? When selecting a destination, consider: does it offer good value for money and quality service, and is there a strong point of difference when you compare it to where the previous conference or incentive event was held?
2. Have they ever done anything like this before? Seek to create an experience that’s superior to what people in the group would have experienced in their own travels. It should obviously serve to encourage and motivate participants to continue working hard so they can enjoy similar rewards again.
3. Don’t sacrifice quality for cost. In the current, increasingly competitive market, many incentive agents are having to tender for business against their competition. With this type of bidding process, a key criterion is the cost of the program. Incentive agents are often judged on bottom-line figures, so we’re seeing more and more programs designed to be as cost-effective as possible, and competition on all levels is becoming more fierce. This is a positive change in many ways, because it keeps businesses sharper and makes them work harder to turn out the best possible program to win business.But it does create challenges when designing the best incentive experience – putting pressure on the MICE agent to cut budgets to the bone while retaining the incentive elements that make a program distinctive.
4. Plan ahead. Pre-planning is key to ensuring you always get the best deal. Timing plays a huge part in pricing. This is one area in which a destination management company (DMC) can play an essential role, thanks to their buying power. Well-established DMCs supply business to venues and hotels around the globe so they’re able to negotiate very competitive pricing via bulk buying.
5. Consider Asia, South Africa and Europe. Look to countries that offer the best value for money for meetings and events. Asia, with its proximity and great service levels, will always be well suited to MICE clients from Australia. And with the Australian dollar strong against the rand, South Africa is now more affordable than ever. Though the Aussie dollar has declined against the US greenback, it remains quite stable against the euro and this is still helping to push business towards Europe.
6. Embrace the ‘unknown’. Organisers and their delegates should remember that while past experiences certainly count, the world is forever evolving so it pays to keep an open mind and explore the unknown. Destinations such as South Korea, Croatia and the Philippines have developed into dynamic destinations for conference and incentive travel. These are often not considered, because of unfamiliarity or experiences from 20 years ago. Good companies will maintain quality while offering value, and have the vision to source and propose new destinations and ideas. They’ll not only adapt to changes in the global marketplace, they’ll respond with innovative offerings.
7. Follow the new airline routes. Airline access and routing are affecting trends in the marketplace and opening up new opportunities. For example the collaboration between Emirates and Qantas has strengthened travel to Europe with stopovers in the Middle East. New direct air services to Sri Lanka start in November and major hotel chains are investing heavily in this destination. This has already sparked a rise in interest in this new incentive location.
Marissa Fernandez joined Destination Marketing Services in 2005 and became owner of the company on 1 October 2013, taking over from founder and industry veteran Leila Bishara (formerly Fiedler). As managing director, Marissa prioritises high standards of customer service and ethical practice in her team. Her background spans more than 20 years in tourism and hospitality, and she has worked for multinational organisations in Australia and overseas.