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Global Incentive Summit 2019: ‘Asian visitors are coming to Europe’

The Global Incentive Summit at the Balmoral in Edinburgh saw incentive travel buyers and representatives from destinations, hotels and destination management companies (DMCs) gather together to hear the latest trends in the incentives market.

The programme was opened by David Blansfield, executive vice president/group publisher of Northstar Travel Group. He introduced Padraic Gilligan, SITE chief marketing officer, who discussed insights on what’s next for incentive travel.

“Spend is the bellwether – to see if the market is healthy or faltering,” he said. “There is more investment in incentive travel. There is a big increase in Asia Pacific. We should start taking seriously Asian visitors coming to Europe as incentive travellers. Australia and New Zealand are also going to be big for incentive travel in the future.”

The presentation was based on the findings of the Incentive Travel Industry Index, a collaboration between by SITE Index, IRF Outlook and FICP (Financial and Insurance Conference Professionals), the largest-ever survey undertaken into the incentive travel industry.

The survey findings show further increases over 2018 in per-person investment with hotel spend and not airline costs – which now captures the majority of the spend. Destination infrastructure – such as hotels – is also the top consideration in destination selection.

Average spend per person amongst buyers in North America increased from $4,000 in 2018 to $4,508 in 2019.  The big increase was in the Asia Pacific market which rose from $2,000 in 2018 to $3,453 in 2019. The EMEA market remained flat at $2,000 for both years.

Western Europe showed a net increase of 21 per cent (plans to use more frequently in 2020 and 2021) from North American buyers.

There is a stronger focus on soft power boosting the role of incentive travel. “It’s about improved engagement and better relationship building. To deliver value to the employees leading to a re-focus in company culture,” Gilligan said.

Responding to the results of the survey, Nicole Trottier, the Leading Hotels of the World director of group sales said: “I still feel like we are working in a very collaborative market and negotiating rates. My suggestion is to be very upfront about budgets and we can find a solution with the best offer and to work with you as a partner.”

Of the destinations to look out for, Trottier said: “Portugal is coming up. It’s incredible value. Clients who have been to Lisbon are now venturing out to Porto and the Algarve. In Italy, clients are looking at Puglia. Greece is coming up – that’s a big one for us. Japan is also on the radar and Ireland will always be hot.”

 Neil Brownlee, head of business events, VisitScotland observed that clients are looking for strong and memorable experiences. “The cultural exchange is something we can dial up.”