Racing against the clock

Organising an overseas incentive in six weeks isn’t as daunting when there is good ground support to ensure things run smoothly. By S Puvaneswary

Event brief

This April, the Asia-Pacific branch of global organisation Honeywell Building Solutions (HBS) organised the 2015 Circle of Excellence, an overseas incentive trip to Langkawi for its overachieving employees, who were picked from over 10 countries.

Asian Overland Services Tours & Travel (AOS) successfully bid to be the ground handler in Langkawi and helped with the meet and greet at the airport, as well as organised sightseeing tours and dinner functions.


The first challenge was the short lead time to organise the event. Pia Harries, executive assistant at HBS, was the sole person organising and had only six weeks to put things together.

She said: “Short lead times have become typical for Honeywell, partly due to internal processes. I have organised numerous events outside of Australia in the past, so I knew the importance of roping in Malaysia Convention & Exhibition Bureau (MyCEB) as well as getting a reliable ground handler.”

Harries’ plans for the delegates to travel on the former Malaysia Airlines (MAS) had to be scrapped after two MAS tragedies, as half the delegates felt more comfortable flying on SilkAir.

She said: “This was a bit of a blow to the event timeline and budget as it meant an additional two nights hotel stay and meals in Langkawi because SilkAir only flies from Langkawi to Singapore

on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. This change meant for the first time in over five years of running events, I had to request a budget increase. Fortunately, my senior managers understood the circumstances and were fully supportive of the change to SilkAir.”

For the pre-dinner entertainment on the third day, Harries wanted to create a ‘wow’ experience. The previous year’s incentive event in Thailand had been a real spectacle and she needed to match or exceed that. For the fire and water-themed performance by the infinity pool at Westin Langkawi Resort & Spa, she had to source for 2m-high transparent balls and look for talents who could perform inside these balls that would be floating on water. This was the first time that Wong Kee Yen, AOS’s project manager, was putting this act together and her challenge was to ensure that it went well.


Despite the late hotel bookings, Harries described the rates she received as “very good”, attributing it to the slowing MICE market.

She added: “With my budget blown on extra room nights, MyCEB’s provision of room drop gifts, Malay dancers, Batik painting and partial sponsorship of the dinner was a great help. I could relax knowing that the entertainment on welcome night was going to be good.”

Wong said the balls had to be brought from the capital city while three synchronised swimmers, together with a coach, were brought in from Penang a day earlier to rehearse performing inside a ball. The balls were pumped with oxygen to sustain the performers within.

Key takeaways

Looking back, Harries said: “MyCEB was efficient and easy to deal with. Their reminders and timelines were of great help.”

On advice to readers, she said: “If you have any control over timelines, try and have more than six weeks to organise!”

Recalling the performances at the gala dinner, Wong said: “We never used the entertainers before. So we took extra care to check their background and references before engaging them. It was also important to have a rehearsal prior to this event.”

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