Our latest micebook talks focused on the current challenges faced by the incentives and luxury travel sector within the MICE industry. While many meetings and conferences are going virtual for the foreseeable future, it’s not quite as simple a switch for the incentives sector.
Our panel, featuring SITE GB President Elliott Grant, Penguins Head of Incentives Holly Mills, Absolute Corporate Events Managing Director Chris Parnham and Peter Groom, Regional Vice President Europe, ALHI, discussed what the future holds. Here’s a few key takeaways…
Chris Parnham: “Firstly there’s the effects of the pandemic itself, which is making it impossible to travel and causing governments and corporates to restrict travel. This is going to leave some people with a nervousness and reluctance to travel. The second thing that will compound this is the economic effect of this crisis on businesses, which could result in cost-saving initiatives such as travel bans and meeting and incentive spend being cut like it was after the financial crisis.”
Elliott Grant: “The two-week quarantine will have a huge impact, so we need that to be cleared up first. I don’t think any company will be signing up to send people on an incentive if they have to quarantine when they come back. But once this is over, a travel incentive will be even more aspirational. People are so desperate to travel again – I think we are going to find a way to make things work a lot quicker than we think.”
Holly Mills: “The biggest challenge we have is getting clients to commit to booking incentives.”
Peter Groom: “I think there is an appetite to start travelling and moving again if we can do so in a safe fashion. From an incentive perspective, I’d be interested to see what companies are really hitting their goals this year to be going ahead with their incentive programmes.”
What does industry look like in the short- to medium-term?
Chris Parnham: “I don’t think we will see much travel come back in 2020, so we need to find other ways to motivate and incentivise audiences in the meantime. We’ll see more creative incentive schemes that don’t include travel, or perhaps individual travel incentives as it will be easier to deliver than group travel.
“I think there are some great destinations in the UK that we can take advantage of. Also, families are closer than they have ever been and spending more time together so we could look to reward the whole family. For example, we could offer luxury family experiences such as providing a luxury car for a month or a chauffeur service – access to luxuries of life that they don’t get access to every day.”
Holly Mill: “The need for engagement is really key and will be more important than ever. Whenever we can link CSR activity into incentive schemes they are more rewarding for everyone involved. If we can push for more purposeful incentives but still keeping the luxury elenment, there is more of a business case to run them and they can be used as a tool to bring people together on a much bigger level.”
Elliott Grant: “I think it would be foolish not to ramp up the domestic offering for incentives not just because people might not want to fly, but we have lots of places on our doorstep that are incredible for incentives. Clients might be more open to exclusive use of a castle in Scotland, for example. It’s a big opportunity for the UK incentive market as a whole, and for local destinations to really step up.”
Peter Groom: “In luxury hotels, we have spent a great deal of time and money on hiding the cleaning process from customers. From an operational perspective, everything is being turned on its head and we won’t be hiding it anymore. Customers are going to want to see the cleaning happening.”
Holly Mills: “We are working on some tenders for 2021. We are having some positive conversations and clients are a bit more confident about 2021, but I think a lot of next year will be spent planning for 2022.”
Chris Parnham: “We are looking at incentives for mid-2021 and onwards. They are mid-haul rather than long-haul. But they are all subject to us finding solutions and recovery from the pandemic.
“This will impact different industries differently. For example the insurance industry is having a good year, but retail is having a bad year. We need to be sympathetic to those industries that are suffering and look for the opportunities within the industries that have done well during the crisis.”
Elliott Grant: “There is a lot that is out of our control including our clients travel policies. All we can do is make sure we are their point of contact, preach the positivity and value of our industry and have all the protocols in place to be ready when they are.”