Luxurious bio-security: incentive travel’s new normal

SITE Thailand webinar hears most India organisers in poll want to travel by year end; customised luxury for millennials and large direct-sales groups ready for comeback in China

INCENTIVE travel planners believe Thailand will again be a priority among groups, but the demands of participants are changing under a new normal with suppliers expecting to meet requirements ranging from bio-security to tailor-made “authentic luxury”.

These were among the forecasts shared by a panel of experts during a webinar panel organised by SITE Thailand entitled Brave New World, which looked at the uncertainties surrounding the future of incentive travel.

India, one of Thailand’s main incentive markets, showed encouraging signs with group organisers preparing for an easing of Covid-19 travel restrictions.

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Nitin Sachdeva, SITE vice president for India, said a poll conducted among 120 key decision makers in the country’s MICE-planner network found that 59 per cent expect to have groups travelling by the end of the year.

Sachdeva said that after a two-month lockdown in India the economic impact was being felt but companies believed it was only a matter of time before the “government will step in” with measures to encourage business.

Other trends highlighted by panellists as the incentive travel industry prepared for post-Covid activity included:

  • DMCs adding health security to existing crisis management skills to reassure groups;
  • Bio-security measures added to existing airline security checks;
  • Touchless payments using mobile devices and chip-based credit cards at venues;
  • Luxury incentive packages tailored to the more independent-minded millennial market that give more authentic insights into Thai culture;
  • Incentive travel being offered beyond the “sales arena” as qualifiers are offered a choice between cash and an experiential travel programme.

SITE president Jennifer Glynn believed higher-end customised travel would re-emerge in Thailand, but with smaller groups, as would be the case with the meetings industry.

“It’s going to be about promoting the authenticity of Thailand, something that definitely resonates among millennials,” said Glynn, who is based in Canada.

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Nichipa Yoswee, senior vice president with TCEB, said Thailand’s convention bureau was working on a three-stage process towards a “new normal” for the industry, but Thai service and values would remain intact.

“It does not change the foundation of trust in business with service exceeding expectations,” Yoswee said, adding that TCEB has been working with the Thailand Incentive and Convention Association on health and safety measures that “would create a new normal for the industry”.

China has progressed further with a five-day auto exhibition in the central city of Changsha getting underway with extra health checks and precautions. There were also signs of pent-up demand for corporate incentive travel.

Alicia Yao, of SITE China, said direct-sales groups were the most likely to make a comeback in China’s incentive travel sphere. She knew of a 300-strong group already making preparations and another of at least 1,200 that wanted to travel together with tours centred around health and wellness being among the themes offered.

Main picture: Sala rural resort at Khao Yai, Thailand
Read more about Khao Yai in Thailand: Mountain Retreat 

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