Better air links inspire hopes for stronger Eastern Europe MICE demand

INBOUND agents in Malaysia are projecting growth in the incentive business from Eastern Europe this year, thanks largely to improved air connections to the region offered by Middle Eastern airlines.

Qatar Airways bumped up frequencies to Warsaw from four flights weekly to daily services on February 1, while Emirates commenced daily flights between Dubai and Warsaw on February 6. The latter, which has been flying daily to Prague since July 1, 2010, also increased its services between Dubai and Kuala Lumpur from 26 weekly flights to 28 from April 1.

Alex Lee, CEO of Ping Anchorage Travel & Tours in Terengganu, expects to see a 10 per cent year-on-year increase in business mainly from the Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary for the coming European summer this year.

Although Lee noted that most incentive groups from Eastern Europe were small, with less than 50 people each, he said that it was nonetheless a “good market to tap as the economy is growing, as compared to Central Europe”.

“(Eastern European incentive travellers) look for good beaches and shopping. We will work with our partners in Europe and attend trade shows such as ITB to further tap this market,” he said.

Luxury Tours Malaysia senior manager, Arokia Das, projects a 50 per cent increase in incentive business from the region for the European winter season based on advanced requests.

He said: “Our advantage is that many incentive groups have already been to Bali, Phuket and Bangkok and are now looking for new destinations in (Asia). Eastern Europe is a good market as incentive groups usually spend about five nights in Malaysia.”

Lee added there had been a heightened demand from corporate clients in Eastern Europe for corporate social responsibility programmes. To cater to this demand, Ping Anchorage Travel & Tours is working with the Department of Wildlife and National Parks, Terengganu and NGOs to develop day and night programmes on turtle and terrapin conservation in Terengganu.

Despite observations of stronger demand from Eastern Europe since late-2012, Malai Adventure managing director, Nasha Abdullah, said the market’s awareness of Malaysia as a destination was still low. “With Visit Malaysia Year just round the corner, we hope (awareness of Malaysia) will improve through government efforts,” she said.

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