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Mice Asia Net : October 2008
Q&A A: The fully integrated resorts concepts being developed in Macau and Singapore are well suited to the two giant feeder markets in the region – China and India. I have been saying for some time, neglect these two outbound markets at your peril. The future of MICE in Asia lies at the doorsteps of these two giant economies. Macau and Singapore’s integrated resorts perfectly fit the needs and expectations of the Chinese and Indian markets - big, brash, bright lights and brand new, and all packaged in one destination, is what the clients are looking for. The Chinese and Indian MICE groups are seeking glitzy experiences and are presently alien to ecological propositions. While the bulk of MICE events from both markets is still very cheap, low- end three-star business, we are seeing a very gradual trend of returning corporate groups improving the quality of experience by spending more on accommodation and the ‘bells and whistles’. Additionally, for the XL sized meetings from traditional markets such as Australia and Europe, Macau has a lot to offer as there are few resorts that can accommodate and entertain group sizes of 1000 delegates are more. Options have been very limited regionally, and so the mega resort developments in Singapore and Macau provide us with new product offerings. Q: Conference programs are imperative to successful meetings but what about incentive travel? What makes an incentive work? A: As many old school Australian incentive pioneers taught me years ago, “If you can do it as a tourist, it is not for an incentive trip.” Today, whilst new resorts come on-line and top achievers tread new ground in rarely visited destinations, the fundamentals of an incentive program still run true. A rewarding trip that you would not get to experience as an individual tourist. Thus, the ability to open doors to exclusive venues to visit and dine at, local celebrities or down-to-earth characters that have a story to share, cultural elements that can be presented in a snapshot and with a twist are still the essential ingredients to make an incentive travel reward a success. Q: Some have been critical of places such as Dubai and Singapore neglecting their cultural and historical traditions to make way for stunning high-rise facilities and mega shopping malls. Are delegates still seeking cultural experiences or is it all about shopping, eating and five- star luxury? A: Dubai and Singapore have been successful in selling themselves as ultramodern, chic, glitzy destinations. Both destinations have the infrastructure to support MICE events. There is definitely a market for this style of destination for a meeting or incentive trip. Clients want to offer participants variety. Few events go back to the same destination year after year. It is this quest for variety of travel experience that makes Dubai and Singapore winners, as does Bhutan and Borneo. One year a hi-tech, high octane city experience packed with shopping culture, the next year culture and traditions, the next year an eco-adventure in the rainforest. Annual conferences and incentive trips have traditionally moved from continent to continent to meet the need of variety. With the need to control the cost of air travel, regional event planners are looking for variety of experiences offered regionally. Thus, Dubai and Singapore sit comfortably next to Cambodia and Laos. Q: How does the Asian delegate differ from the European or American delegate in what they wish to experience on an incentive? A: The Asian delegate has different needs. Whilst shopping is often top of the list for most nationalities, the dining experience is very different. We have arranged gala dinners for Chinese groups where they charge into a venue at 7pm, tuck into the buffet, see a quick show, and then are out of the ballroom by 9.30pm. In contrast, it is not uncommon for Indian groups to enjoy cocktails at 7pm, followed by entertainment and then sit down to dinner at 11pm. Naturally, menus are different as they have to cater to the different tastes. The Asian delegate is looking for glamour and trend-setting style, whereas American delegates are mostly on a voyage of discovery with an appetite for history, culture and traditions. The European delegates’ needs are a mix of Asian and American. They seek the adventure spirit yet want a five-star restaurant in the middle of an ethnic village. Q: What are the growth markets for you as a company right now? A: Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and Hong Kong remain top of our key feeder markets. India is showing incredible growth with more incentive trips being used to motivate the dealers and staff. China also represents a key market for the future. However, as with India, both markets have to be approached carefully as they need to be handled in a very different manner to, say, Australia. Q: Why does travel remain one of the greatest motivators? A: Travel still remains the greatest motivator as most people in top achieving positions continue to have a spirit of adventure and desire to explore new lands, [and] meeting new people. Proudly presenting a new plasma screen TV just does not have the impact as someone recounting their travel experiences at the foothills of the Himalayas, or dining in a Bedouin encampment. Travel will always be an ‘aspirational’ tool so long as people dream in the daily workplaces of travelling to far away exotic places. miceAsia.net 17