Gath­er­ing Place

Look­ing for mem­o­rable in­cen­tive travel on a bud­get? Africa of­fers some re­mark­able al­ter­na­tives

Business Traveler (USA) - - CONTENTS - Marisa Cannon con­trib­uted to this re­port BT

Be Dif­fer­ent – Africa of­fers mem­o­rable in­cen­tive travel

Event or­ga­niz­ers are find­ing them­selves un­der in­creas­ing pres­sure to make their events stand out and de­liver real value for their clients. It’s no longer good enough to do things the way you’ve al­ways done them. This is es­pe­cially ap­par­ent in the MICE sec­tor, as cus­tomers de­mand more from their pro­grams, re­gard­less of whether it’s a sim­ple meet­ing, a ma­jor con­fer­ence or an in­cen­tive pro­gram.

Among the sub-sec­tors of MICE, in­cen­tives is prob­a­bly the one with the great­est op­por­tu­nity to dif­fer­en­ti­ate, what with the var­i­ous el­e­ments that go into an in­cen­tive trip. It comes down to cre­ativ­ity and think­ing out­side the box. But where to be­gin?

Start the creative juices flow­ing by look­ing at trends in the in­dus­try. For ex­am­ple In­cen­tive mag­a­zine re­cently iden­ti­fied five spe­cific global trends it be­lieves are shap­ing in­cen­tive travel across the world: • Ex­pe­ri­en­tial Travel – these are one-of-a-kind experiences unique

to the des­ti­na­tion • Well­ness Travel – experiences that leave trav­el­ers health­ier when

they check out • Be­spoke Trans­porta­tion – char­ter com­pa­nies can set an itin­er­ary,

sched­ule and air­craft type • All-In­clu­sive Prop­er­ties – sim­plify things from a strate­gic and

bud­getary point of view • Event Tech­nol­ogy – so­cial me­dia has changed the way we com­mu­ni­cate. Mo­bile apps are ex­pected. What these trends don’t tackle is the is­sue of re­duced spend and how in­cen­tive trip or­ga­niz­ers come up with fan­tas­tic pro­grams within the con­straints of a bud­get that has a lot fewer ze­ros on it than the year be­fore.

“In­cen­tives have al­ways been about be­ing dif­fer­ent,” says Themba Mthombeni, CEO of Duma Travel, based in Jo­han­nes­burg .“De­clin­ing bud­gets are com­pelling us to re-eval­u­ate our prod­uct of­fer­ing to in­clude fresh con­cepts and in­no­va­tive ideas.”That, many would agree, is a good thing, with in­cen­tive trip or­ga­niz­ers re­ally hav­ing to ‘earn their keep’ by of­fer­ing clients a fan­tas­tic in­cen­tive trip for their staff, but even with­out the big bud­gets to throw at it.

Bot­tom line?“Clients will never scale down on their ex­pec­ta­tions and will con­tinue to look for the‘ wow’ fac­tor ,” says Mthombeni.

“Clients will never scale down on their ex­pec­ta­tions and will con­tinue to look for the Wow fac­tor”

“This makes it very chal­leng­ing for MICE op­er­a­tors to de­liver above ex­pec­ta­tion, within a lower bud­get and mar­gin.”

Con­clu­sion: What­ever you do – even within the con­straints of chal­leng­ing bud­get con­di­tions – you just have to be dif­fer­ent. And Africa is rich with op­por­tu­ni­ties to set your in­cen­tive travel apart.

Sun City and Bal­loon Sa­fari

South Africa’s an­swer to an in­te­grated re­sort (in the vein of those in Ma­cau and Las Ve­gas), Sun City in the North West prov­ince of South Africa, in­cor­po­rates four ho­tels, two cham­pi­onship golf cour­ses, gam­bling, a man-made beach and water­park, wildlife view­ing and hot-air bal­loon­ing, to name just a few at­trac­tions.

The re­sort is ex­tremely pop­u­lar with Chi­nese tourists year-round, says Nokuthula Nkosi, me­dia re­la­tions of­fi­cer at Sun City.“Our big­gest mar­ket comes from Asia – China pre­dom­i­nantly. Our Chi­nese mar­ket is so huge that we’ve even in­cor­po­rated Chi­nese NewYear into our events cal­en­dar,”Nkosi ex­plains.

“Gam­bling is ob­vi­ously a draw for the large groups that come,” she adds,“but we are happy to be able to of­fer game tours to see the‘big five’at Pi­lanes­berg Na­tional Park, which is malaria-free so no vac­ci­na­tions are re­quired.”

The big five refers to the African lion, ele­phant, Cape buf­falo, leop­ard and rhi­noc­eros (white or black), which can be seen on drives across Pi­lanes­berg’s 1,500-acre re­serve, and from the awe­some van­tage point of a hot-air bal­loon. Rides can be or­ga­nized through Sun City, with pick up from the ho­tel at 4:30 AM for an early morn­ing game drive be­fore a 6:00 AM bal­loon flight.

One bal­loon can hold 10 to 15 peo­ple de­pend­ing on the weight of pas­sen­gers. Once air­borne, the bal­loon bows grace­fully to the whims of ev­ery gust and, helped along by fiery bursts from the burner, bobs across the hori­zon – some­times low enough for pas­sen­gers to spot herds of wilde­beest, white rhino poorly con­cealed be­hind shrub­bery and gi­raffes in full can­ter.

Sun City’s four ho­tels of­fer 1,351 rooms, which can be booked out in their en­tirety. Boast­ing pala­tial stucco in­te­ri­ors and hand-painted mu­rals, the re­sort is mod­eled on an African palace, of­fer­ing enor­mous grounds nav­i­ga­ble by pri­vate minibuses. Team­build­ing ac­tiv­i­ties can be or­ga­nized for groups, but Sun City is more ap­pro­pri­ately a haven for par­ties who want to build bonds through leisure, with a bit of golf, a sa­fari and time spent pool­side.

A Mid­dle East Op­tion: Abu Dhabi

“Abu Dhabi is em­ploy­ing a strong fo­cus on meet­ing the de­mands from the meet­ings and con­gresses sec­tor through first-class prod­ucts – air travel, ho­tels and lux­ury re­tail,”says Jean Martins, TCA Abu Dhabi South Africa coun­try man­ager.“The va­ri­ety of Abu Dhabi’s prod­ucts, ho­tels and at­trac­tions are a key driver be­hind the MICE sec­tor so that the des­ti­na­tion can de­liver not only a venue, but a des­ti­na­tion ex­pe­ri­ence.”

The Abu Dhabi Con­ven­tion Bu­reau also pro­motes Abu Dhabi by of­fer­ing in­cen­tives to or­ga­niz­ers such as free con­sul­ta­tion and dis­counted ac­com­mo­da­tion rates.“Abu Dhabi has a clear tar­get for 2018 and that is to be listed among ICCA’s an­nual rank­ings of the busi­ness as­so­ci­a­tion meet­ings cities,”says Martins.“There is a grow­ing de­mand for unique and dif­fer­ent ac­tiv­i­ties, from busi­ness to leisure, and or­ga­niz­ers are look­ing for des­ti­na­tions that cater to work in the day and af­ter-hour leisure ac­tiv­i­ties.”

“There is a grow­ing de­mand for unique and dif­fer­ent ac­tiv­i­ties, from busi­ness to leisure”

Ac­cord­ing to Martins, Abu Dhabi of­fers a trio of ben­e­fits: ac­ces­si­bil­ity, di­ver­sity and qual­ity –“all with a dif­fer­ence.”If you’re look­ing for some Abu Dhabi point­ers, Martins of­fers the fol­low­ing pro­posed MICE itin­er­ary:

Day One: Fly in early morn­ing and take a two-hour trans­fer to the Qasr Al Sarab Desert Re­sort. This is not only a 200-room re­sort, but a mu­seum where au­then­tic Ara­bian ar­ti­facts are on dis­play. Have your wel­come cock­tails on the Royal Pav­il­ion un­der the stars and in­dulge in Ara­bian cui­sine, Be­douin-style.

Day Two: Ex­pe­ri­ence camel trekking at dawn and watch the sun rise over the Empty Quar­ter dunes. Af­ter break­fast, make your way back to the city where you will have the op­por­tu­nity to take in the cul­ture of Abu Dhabi by vis­it­ing the Her­itage Vil­lage and the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. Check into one of Abu Dhabi’s top ho­tels and en­joy din­ner at Saadiyat Beach Club, an Ibiza-style pri­vate beach club.

Day Three: As­sault your senses by hav­ing your con­fer­ence at Fer­rari World, the world’s largest in­door theme park, sport­ing the world’s fastest roller coaster as well as the high­est looped roller coaster. Com­bine your con­fer­ence with a treasure hunt team-build­ing ac­tiv­ity in the park, end­ing with a ride around the F1 race­track. Have a leisurely din­ner in the land­mark Emi­rates Palace ho­tel and round out the evening with a gold-leafed cap­puc­cino with your com­pany logo on it.

Day Four: End your ex­pe­ri­ence with an Ara­bian Gulf cruise on the Bel­e­vari cata­ma­ran. En­joy an on­board din­ner and sun­down­ers af­ter a dip in the warm Ara­bian wa­ters. The Abu Dhabi sky­line at night is a unique ex­pe­ri­ence in it­self.

Re­union: An Island to Re­mem­ber

Are you look­ing for a‘ dif­fer­ent’ In­dian Ocean island op­tion for your in­cen­tive trip? For so long now, Mau­ri­tius has been the go-to op­tion in this space. The Sey­chelles is an­other at­trac­tive propo­si­tion, par­tic­u­larly for those with big­ger bud­gets, al­though it of­ten finds it­self priced out of the mar­ket.

So, what else is thereto choose from? An­other‘ African’ island op­tion is Re­union. Lo­cated in the In­dian Ocean, east of Mada­gas­car and south­west of Mau­ri­tius, it is an island and re­gion gov­erned by France. Its tourism author­ity is keen on prop­erly tap­ping the in­cen­tive mar­ket, par­tic­u­larly out of South Africa.

Ac­cord­ing to Re­union Tourism, the island is grow­ing in pop­u­lar­ity“thanks to its ex­cep­tional experiences in cul­ture, ro­mance, gas­tron­omy, well-be­ing, ad­ven­ture and out­door ac­tiv­i­ties.”

Strength­en­ing the Re­union propo­si­tion, ac­cord­ing to the tourism au­thor­i­ties, are the fol­low­ing: • De­li­cious food with a tasty mix of Euro­pean and African in­flu

ences • Breath­tak­ing scenery • One of the world’s most ac­tive vol­ca­noes • A des­ti­na­tion for all – cou­ples, fam­i­lies, young and old • France at your doorstep, with an island twist • Leisurely times on the beach • Safe, se­cure and top-notch med­i­cal fa­cil­i­ties • Great weather all year round

“Ho­tels and at­trac­tions are key so that the des­ti­na­tion can de­liver not only a venue, but an ex­pe­ri­ence”

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