EXPLORE new frontiers
Uncertainty in the global economy contributed to a decline in incentive travel last year. As companies cut back expenses, they also looked for incentive destinations that offer greater value.
China, in particular, presents great opportunities to reward employees and business partners. While the number of incentive travellers to China has been on the rise, in order to offer something special, service providers are digging deeper into the country for itineraries that can bring greater value and experiences for their customers.
A few years ago, China's major cities, such as Beijing, Shanghai and Xian, might have sufficed for a standard incentive programme, but new cities are starting to grab a share of the market.
Chengdu and Lijiang, in China's southwest, are new locations for incentive trips. Lijiang is a famous tourist town in northern Yunnan, surrounded by mountains; Chengdu is the political, economic and cultural hub of western China, with several excellent locations nearby, including the Panda Reserve, the Grand Buddha of Leshan and Jiuzhaigou Valley.
'Compared with three or four years ago, we have many more Chengdu, Lijiang, and even Tibet programmes,' says Violet Wang, senior account manager at Pacific World, a major destination management company in Shanghai.
Wang says that to bring the best values to clients, all incentive itineraries have to be tailor-made. 'Each trip should always include some sparkling elements, no matter the budget. The sparkle is not necessarily an expensive dinner at an exclusive venue, but perhaps a creative and unique tour experience - something that highlights the whole incentive trip,' she adds.
Richard Rheindorf, managing director of MCI Beijing, says the key to a good incentives itinerary is knowing your client and having great partners on the ground. '[A good itinerary] depends on whether or not this is a trip for first timers or frequent travellers to China,' Rheindorf explains. 'If it is the first China experience, then the essentials must be included - Beijing, the Great Wall and Shanghai.'
He adds that any good service provider will know their client inside and out, not just the industry and background, but who is attending, and what the goal and impact of the trip should be.