Taking the pulse of luxury business events // Outrageous!

Event specialists in Asia reveal the most extravagant – some plain ridiculous – requests from their deep-pocketed clients

Hired help
Bull dog

“An Australian incentive house contacted us regarding a welcome reception at an off-site venue where they needed a British countryside theme. They requested staff to be dressed as “bobbies” – English policemen, in British hunting attire – think tweed and wellington boots. (The venue came with) a croquet set, fake bucolic wooden fences and our favourite part – 10 English Bulldogs wearing Union Jack bow ties and jackets!”
Kaci McAllister, general manager, Destination Asia (China)

“Once, we received a request to invite the famous Bollywoood actor, Shah Rukh Khan, to attend an award ceremony night. The organisers expected him to perform a 30-minute dance show together with his entourage during their gala dinner. All this Shah Rukh Khan had to for free, with no royalty fees. It did not happen, of course.”
Andy Yow, director of sales & marketing, Vivanta by Taj – Rebak Island Langkawi

“A group of 30 people on a corporate incentive trip asked for an experiential half-day ‘Fear Factor’ activity. We privatised a head-hunting village for an initiation ceremony. They had a butad (white thick caterpillars that taste like sago) tasting, tribal dancing and blow-pipe challenges. The day finished with a village ceremony in the ancestral village’s longhouse hall decorated with real “trophy” skulls from ancient times, which the tribesmen traditionally believe they gain energy from.”
Kristina Gardin Forssell, managing director, 8th Wave Events & Destinations, Singapore

“Keen on impressing a small group of important foreign clients, a corporate relations officer who shall remain unnamed asked about using butandings or whale sharks as the main highlight of their marine-themed entertainment. When told that butandings cannot be taught tricks like their small cousins seal or sea lion, the officer suggested dolphins or barracudas or other bigger marine creatures.”
Anonymous, DMC manager, Cebu

“Once, Marina Bay Sands worked with a US-based MLM incentive group to introduce a lavish rewards initiative in the form of pre-loaded credit cards, which were awarded to every delegate. Delegates could use these cards to spend across all the attractions at Marina Bay Sands, from celebrity chef restaurants to high-end boutiques.”
Mike Lee, vice president of sales, Marina Bay Sands, Singapore

“A luxury sports car brand once approached us to take over our majestic lobby and transform it to a showroom by parking six vehicles there. We couldn’t bear the risk of cracking our vintage Italian marble, which is no longer in production. We turned down this lucrative piece of business.”
Vindy Lui, director of catering and conference services, The Peninsula Hong Kong

“With luxury events, there is pressure to consistently outdo previous experiences – shock value begins to take a premium when budget is not a concern but rather ‘wow-ing’ a crowd that has many times seen it all. It’s a fun challenge which (leads to) truly bizarre requests. Live animals at events seem to be a recurring theme – everything from doves flying out of a car, an emcee riding a horse on stage, and even having live tigers as part of the interactive entertainment.”
Olinto Oliveira, director, business development & events, MCI Macau Office


Hired help

“I worked on a Chinese incentive event where the client’s vision was to fly out 50 gophers to Australia to serve their 20 VIPs. The client achieved their vision; the gophers were responsible for fetching towels and water for the VIPs and catering to any of their requests. To date, it is still the most ridiculous thing I have ever seen.”
Anonymous, event director, Sydney


“We had an opportunity to create something new and different for a 600-pax Welcome Cocktail held outdoors by Sheraton Grand Macao Hotel’s Tiki pool. We poured 10,000 ping pong balls into the pool to create a white canvas on top of the water. We then used a high-powered projector to flash images onto this canvas.

For another event (at the same hotel), we created five iconic Asian landmarks in our Kashgar Ballroom for a technology company’s (dining event). The Taj Mahal was a stunning centrepiece. Delegates could walk into each iconic landmark to enjoy speciality dishes from each destination.”
Daniella Tonetto, general manager, sales and marketing, Sheraton Grand Macao Hotel, Cotai Central and The St. Regis Macao, Cotai Central


Outrageous is an extract from Taking the pulse of luxury business events, the cover feature for TTGmice September 2017

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