Shifts around the world are having an impact on incentive travel for countries in Asia and the Middle East.
Economy. Policy. Safety. Just about everywhere you look, the latest global trends are significantly shifting the way incentive companies do business.
Last month, The View from Here profiled leaders in Latin America and the United Kingdom to understand how challenges such as Brexit and U.S. policies are affecting the incentive travel business.
This month, we look at two other markets and discover a few surprising trends on the rise.
China – The Tale of Two Incentive Industries
With more than 30 years of experience in incentives, SITE Board Member Alicia Yao, CIS, Managing Director IME Consulting Co. Ltd. in Beijing has seen the extremes of incentive travel - both inbound and outbound.
In the lead up to the 2008 Olympics, incentive travel was highly prized. “It was very strong from 2000 to about 2012,” she explains. That said, two factors have conspired to cause a downturn in incentives into the country – cost and cultural perception.
“The Olympics also made China more expensive than our neighbors like Vietnam, Cambodia and Sri Lanka,” she explained. Large cities like Beijing and Shanghai quickly became more expensive, although other cities like Xi’an, Kunming and Shangri-La still offer authentic, more affordable experiences.”
There has also been a shift in cultural understanding of incentive – it can be seen as an ethical issue in China, associated with corruption. The government was once very active in promoting the region and incentives, but that has declined in recent years. That said, Alicia has continued to lead delegations to conferences and events like IMEX to promote the country.
With another Olympiad on the horizon for Beijing, Alicia sees opportunity for government, industry and meeting associations to work together to revitalize the region’s incentive industry.
Meanwhile, outbound incentive groups that travel from China to experience the rest of the world have their own concerns – safety chief among those. Alicia describes the belief that places like London and Paris are no longer seen as “safe.” A group of 3000 was actually stranded in Paris during a bombing two years ago.
Groups that have visited Italy, Brazil and Germany describe them as expensive – which is why Chinese companies are looking at alternative destinations. Ireland, Denmark, Australia, Canada and even Kazakhstan have become increasingly popular. “We just completed a fam trip in Poland,” she offers.
All in all, outbound business is very strong – and non-traditional destinations are reaping the benefits.
Jordan – An Incentive Oasis in the Middle East
Director of Jordanian DMC Karma House, Raja Sharayha defines the country’s incentive challenge in a single sentence, “The problem we are facing is the misperception of placing Jordan among others with problems.”
Jordan, he explains, is often lumped in with Iraq and Syria when it comes to travel destinations, simply because it is considered part of the Middle East. The perception in the press is that the entire region struggles with security.
But the truth doesn’t match the perception.
Jordan is not only safe, and governed by an “open minded King,” it’s an extraordinary destination for travel. As proof of concept, he describes a trip he held the day before for 30 travel agents in the area. “We didn’t take them to tourist areas – we took them downtown so they could be among real people. We took them to a green grocery and to markets. Afterwards, I got on the bus and asked them – how does this compare to what you see in the media? They said it was like black and white.”
Travel agents aren’t the only ones who see the value of Jordan. A recent promotional period saw 100% occupancy in capital city Amman’s hotels. High-end properties like the Fairmont, St. Regis and The Ritz-Carlton are set to open in the coming months. Global leaders like the World Economic Forum and Microsoft have recently held events in the country.
And for good reason. “Jordan is a natural museum full of history, culture and hospitality – accompanied by unique landscapes from deserts, to mountains and the Dead Sea, the lowest place on earth.”
With direct flights from across Europe, Raja believes that Jordan has everything it takes to be a world-class destination for incentive travel – it just needs the perception to catch up with reality.