Companies usually offer incentive tours to reward staff for their excellent performances, or to clients in appreciation of their contribution to business growth. These group tours often feature different themes and also cater to spouses and family members. These tours are related to the choice of destination. The more colour and variety a country offers, the more popular it will be.
Singapore is one of the most popular cities for incentive tours. In 2006, of the 9.7million visitor arrivals, 28 per cent were business travellers, and meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) visitors; 35 per cent of its S$12.4billion (HK$69.62 billion) tourism income came from these arrivals. The country targets the income to increase to S$10.5billion by 2015, 30 per cent of the total forecast of S$30billion tourism income.
Ellen Wong Man-see, area director for Hong Kong and Macau for the Singapore Tourism Board, said the key factor contributing to its success was the strong support from the government and close co-operation with event planners and hotel operators.
In 2006, the Singapore Exhibition and Convention Bureau, a group under the Singapore Tourism Board, launched a series of initiatives to boost the MICE industry by committing S$170million to finance business development events.
It also introduced 'BE (Business Events) in Singapore', a comprehensive scheme to support the industry needs with the aim of attracting, creating and strengthening MICE events. For example, Ms Wong said: 'For a corporate meeting and incentive group travel tour, groups of at least 150 visitors can enjoy a lively cultural welcome performance. As the group size increases, we can offer special experiences, which vary from cultural and team-building activities to themed exclusive dinners.
'We always check with the corporate clients to get to know their objectives and the theme of the event, and we will propose ideas on the entertainment and incentives that suit their needs.'
In one case, a small banking group and the organiser of the event consulted the bank's board in Hong Kong for some ideas about arranging a dinner for the delegates. The board recommended a French restaurant inside a black and white colonial bungalow on the grounds of the lush Singapore Botanic Gardens. Through the support of the 'BE in Singapore' incentive scheme, the board also arranged a harpist to perform during dinner and the client was pleased with the suggestion.
Ms Wong said the board recognised the importance of continually having to reinvent the city's attractions to remain relevant in the competitive world. Some of those projects included the recent opening of the Singapore Flyer, the world's largest observation wheel, and the upcoming opening of two integrated resorts, Marina Bay Sands and Resorts World at Sentosa.
'These projects are iconic attractions which will redefine our cityscape and significantly enhance Singapore's destination appeal,' she said.
Other developments in the pipeline include the Gardens by the Bay (to be opened in phases from 2010 onwards), the Sports Hub, rejuvenating Orchard Road and the redevelopment of the Singapore River.
Singapore offers various group team-building, night safari and practical activities for incentive tours. These include group cooking at an academy where participants can 'perform and practise' their culinary skills or learn how to prepare a meal in an old traditional village.
Corporate groups may also visit the School of Hard Knocks to craft their own pewter souvenir under the guidance of instructors.
'All these activities are suitable for the spouses and children of the delegates enjoying their incentive trips in Singapore,' Ms Wong said.
Singapore has proved itself to be an attractive destination for incentive groups from around the world.
One example was the hosting of 12,000 Amway delegates from China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Malaysia in 2006.
The city has played host to Amway groups from India and Japan in recent years.
The Lion City also hosted the Herbalife Asia Pacific Extravaganza in July 2007, which saw an estimated 16,000 foreign delegates converging for a series of workshops and meetings.
It was the biggest incentive group to have met in Singapore.