Celebrating local flavours

ICEM Regional overcomes work culture and language differences
in Japan to deliver a unique incentive event in familiar Tokyo.
By Karen Yue

Event brief

It was in mid-September 2014 when Malaysian telecommunication giant, DiGi, contracted Kuala Lumpur-based event specialist, ICEM Regional, as the planner for its incentive campaign. The campaign was aimed at rewarding top dealers with an exciting and memorable trip to Tokyo in end-November.


According to Lim Pei Pei, head of sales at ICEM Regional, the client had ordered a “money can’t buy experience” for its top achievers.

“However, Japan, and Tokyo for this matter, is not a new destination for any traveller. To plan something out of the ordinary in Tokyo is pretty challenging,” Lim said.

Adding to the challenge was the Japanese culture of conformity. “The Japanese culture holds rules in high regard and its people do things by the book, so it was difficult to execute out-of-the-box ideas. It took some getting used to, as in this part of Asia we are able to get things done and done quicker by perhaps paying a premium,” she shared.


To overcome language differences, and more importantly work culture differences, ICEM Regional engaged a Japanese agency which was managed by a Malaysian.

Lim explained: “He understood both the Malaysian and Japanese cultures, and acted as our go-between. He knew what Malaysian travellers wanted – as well as what we wanted for our client – and balanced that with what is achievable in Tokyo. He was also our solution to language issues when communicating with local suppliers.”

In the end, ICEM Regional was able to deliver a memorable programme that met with DiGi’s expectations. The main draw of the incentive trip was the food experience. Activities highlighted local experiences and they included a sushi-making class, a treasure hunt for Japanese tidbits and knickknacks around the retail and dining space within the sprawling Shinjuku Station, and a DIY barbeque dinner in the middle of the city, set under marquees in an open space.

Lim described the outdoor barbeque dinner as a “wonderful experience especially during cooler seasons”.

Delegates also visited the office of fellow telecommunication company, NTT Docomo, and went on an outlet shopping spree.

Key takeaways

Looking back, Lim said “lots of patience were needed” during the planning process.

“We learnt that we need to trust the Japanese to deliver high quality services even if it was a little difficult to get required information or confirmation for our requests earlier on. A give-and-take attitude will go a long way. Also, working closely with the client is always necessary to ensure requirements are delivered smoothly,” she shared.

She added that when the itinerary offered unique experiences, the client would be more willing to “pay a little more”.

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