In our latest guest blog, Graham Alderman, Owner and Managing Director of incentive travel specialist Ulterior Events shares his insights into why DMCs will be increasingly valuable as incentive travel returns post-pandemic…
As restrictions ease and the world unlocks, we’re elated to be seeing the green shoots of enquiries about incentive travel trips once again. While the pandemic has changed many processes and ways of working for the incentive travel industry, there is one thing that we are adamant about at Ulterior Events – and that’s our choice to always use a Destination Management Company (DMC). As an agency that is committed to leaving no stone unturned and no detail to chance we’ve always believed in their worth. In fact, in 30 years of operation to 98 cities and counting, we have never run an incentive without one.
It’s a perfect partnership. We have the deep understanding of our clients, knowing what makes them tick, and the creative experience of putting together that standout incentive that they are looking for, and a DMC has the vast experience and up-to-date knowledge of what their destination has to offer, and that’s why we trust them. The expertise of a DMC is more valuable than ever as we enter this new era for travel, in which regulations and systems will vary country-to-country and month-to-month. Their role has evolved over the past 15 months to become heavily focused on health, safety, and crisis management, working closely with regional airlines, hotels and suppliers.
The results of the third annual Incentive Travel Industry Index (ITII) published earlier this year showed a clear commitment to the incentive industry. However, 62% of European buyers believed that it needs to fundamentally change to reduce risks. This high emphasis on risk reduction is no surprise, highlighting that we need to show incentives are safe. We believe that DMCs are the key to doing this, as without one you have limited awareness of local rules and protocol, which is a potential recipe for disaster in the current climate.
The reboot of the travel industry is heavily reliant on perceptions: of covid cases, hygiene standards, vaccine take-up and so on, in each destination – and ultimately of potential risk versus benefit. At Ulterior Events we rely on facts over perceptions, which is why we never work without a DMC who will always know the real situation on their patch and the real risks. Of course we hope that every event runs smoothly and without a hiccup – nearly all of them do – but when the chips are down we earn our worth, especially when health and safety are involved and when we need support on the ground, the DMC shows its worth every time.
As Covid-19 cases around the world were just starting to rise in January last year we were happily doing what we do best, hosting a stellar safari incentive in Zambia. Hard to believe it now but at the time we in the UK had barely heard of the virus and so our DMC was invaluable in communicating Zambia’s strong Covid prevention entry policy, ensuring necessary paperwork was completed ahead of time, and enabling our guests to pass through border control as smoothly as possible. None of this is ground-breaking but as with everything we do, it’s making the guest experience the very best it can be and our trusted DMCs help us do this.
Creative solutions are usually collaborative but the ideas and desires we have as an agency sometimes need facilitating in partnership with our DMC as they have the necessary contacts and speak in the native tongue. Everything we do or plan is up for discussion, tweaking or changing but only if it enhances the experience. We are always open to hearing ideas from our DMC teams, that’s why we work with them – for that expert “local know-how!” The final say will always be down to Ulterior Events on behalf of our clients, but we ensure that everyone involved is on the same page and it’s DMCs who help make our ideas a reality. Creativity is one thing, execution is another.