Insurance giant MetLife Korea arranges an annual gathering known as the President’s Council and this year chose The Empire Hotel in Brunei as its venue.
The company is eager to grab a larger share of the Korean insurance market and so organises regular incentive and motivational programmes for its army of agents.
Outside its US base, MetLife employs around 50,000 people. South Korea is the sixth largest insurance market in the world and one targeted by MetLife due to its aging population, a perfect target for its products. In 2007, the company expanded its staff by a quarter and saw sales grow by 60 percent.
Globally the company’s conference services department is responsible for over 100 major incentive and business meetings as well as around 2,000 smaller internal and external business events.
According to MetLife, these corporate events “advanced learning and relationship-building to drive marketplace success, incentivised our sales force to achieve greater levels of profitability and facilitated the development of MetLife associates.”
The programme posed several major challenges for the event organisers.
First was the sheer scale of the event, entertaining around 4,600 delegates and their children, over a 17-day period, presenting a major logistical and accommodation headache for the hotel and local destination management company Borneo Sunshine Tours.
Second was the need to adapt to the specific needs of Korean travellers in the fields of language and diet.
A further challenge was that the island of Borneo had already hosted a previous MetLife Korea incentive group in 2006, when 2,700 visited the neighbouring Malaysian state of Sabah. Brunei therefore had to offer something special.
The programme was split into four waves, each four days apart.
Each wave arrived on three different Korean Air flights landing in the late evening and early morning, with a couple of hours interval between them. The flights were all specially chartered.
As the groups arrived at the airport they were greeted with Hadrah (traditional Islamic poetic chanting) by a young entertainment group. They were then served with fresh fruit punch upon their arrival at the hotel’s lobby lounge.
Every effort was made to keep the visitors nourished and well fed.
Three separate breakfast locations had to be used to cater to delegates: the Atrium Café, the Pantai restaurant and at The Empire Lagoon building.
Over 7,000 kilos of Korean kimchi was sourced from a local supplier. A small Korean restaurant was also opened for dinner at the Waterfall building complete with Korean dish prepared by the hotel chefs. For the setpiece meals, the welcome buffet dinner party for all arrivals was held at the Indera Kayangan Ballroom, Indera Pura Lounge and Atrium café, with a menu consisting of a selection of Chinese and Malay dishes as well as Korean favourites, such as bulgogi and ginseng chicken soup.
The farewell dinners were held on a separate offsite venue, the Jerudong Park Amphitheatre, which can hold 1,000 guests. The evening was filled with traditional and cultural dances and performances.
And the delegates’ children were not ignored either. The Conference Room at the main Atrium building was transformed into the Junior Club room, with miniature playhouse, computer games, comic books and more to keep the children occupied.
The event also included an award night at The Empire’s Theatre, where MetLife Korea’s top achievers were honoured.