Port support for incentives
THE local tourism industry may have hit a few potholes lately, but one sector of the industry has managed to avoid the worst.
The Port Douglas Incentives group, made up of 12 local tourism businesses, formed more than a decade ago to position Port Douglas and the Daintree as the premier conference and incentive destination in the Asia-Pacific.
Business has picked up dramatically since the worst of the downturn in 2009.
“We’re looking at pretty strong group events bookings through April and May,” said Natalie Johnson, chair of the group. “I’m sure it will be the best year in some time.”
Ms Johnson said the MICE sector (meetings, incentives, conferences and events) had recovered fairly well after falling off a cliff when the global financial crisis slashed corporate incentive budgets to the bone.
Ms Johnson said the incentives group had achieved a lot of their success through independent marketing, as a group and as individual companies.
“I attend AIM, the biggest MICE trade show in the southern hemisphere every year, and we all do a lot of sales trips,” she said. “I never have a problem making cold calls. “Australian companies are keen to support Australian destinations, and they’re always looking for new ideas, an amazing conference or event.”
However, like other sectors of the tourism industry, MICE bookings are coming on a much shorter lead-time in 2011 than they ever have before.
“It’s quite remarkable really,” Ms Johnson said.
“We recently took a booking with a lead time of just two weeks, which never would have occurred a few years ago.”
Ms Johnson said the MICE sector was much more significant than the one-off benefit delivered by the individual events.
“There are very strong correlations between business trips and leisure travel,” she said.
“A lot of people who come to a destination for a business trip, especially one like ours, will return with the family so they can enjoy the destination at a more relaxed pace.
“People at conferences, meetings, often won’t undertake a large number of activities, so they will want to return to experience things they missed the first time around.”
Ms Johnson said one difference between the incentive market and leisure travellers which many businesses did not take into account was the higher level of service expected.
“Although the MICE sector can be quite high-yield, there are also very high expectations,” she said.
“Port Douglas has always been an aspirational destination, and people are willing to spend more at those times.”