Port sup­port for in­cen­tives

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - NEWS - RICHARD KOSER

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.”

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