Longhaul buyers look beyond mainstream Asian destinations

Myanmar is rising in popularity as an incentive destination for Dhammayangyi Temple in Bagan pictured

Longhaul demand for Asian incentive holidays is spreading beyond the usual favourites to destinations such as Vietnam and Myanmar, according to buyers at IT&CM Asia.

Ben Gosman, managing director of Netherlands-based FreeStyle Incentives, said Vietnam is becoming an increasingly attractive alternative to the long-popular Thailand.

Myanmar is rising in popularity as an incentive destination for buyers from Europe; Dhammayangyi Temple in Bagan pictured

“The euro is weak compared to the dollar. It used to be at 1.5 dollar per euro, now it’s 1.1 – we lost 40 per cent,” he said. “Compared to the Thai baht we also lost 40 per cent in the last three years. With the euro down, Thailand gets more expensive, and Vietnam becomes very, very attractive.”

In Vietnam, Phu Quoc is an emerging destination for Gosman although mass tourism and construction on this island are becoming growing concerns.

This is also one of the reasons behind the change in FreeStyle Incentives’ Thailand programmes in recent years, with Hua Hin now offered as the beach leg in place of Phuket and Koh Samui.

“We used to offer Phuket and Koh Samui, but two or three years ago, we cut those out. It saves us a flight, and these areas are too crowded. We try to stay away from mainstream destinations.”

Meanwhile, Vietnam and Myanmar are also rising in popularity at Italy’s Ita Events, although Thailand remains the main South-east Asian destination for incentive tours, said Sandro Saccocio, senior project manager.

“Clients like South-east Asia for the food experience. They also like to (get hands on), so local cultural activities such as painting, fruit sculpting and weaving keep clients interested,” he said.

Udo Landow from Show D’Vision Germany is on the lookout for destinations with the “wow appeal”. He added: “In Malaysia, we look for lesser-known islands that are not so commercialised but have good convention facilities to support corporate groups.”

Nevertheless, classic destinations like Bali and Bangkok still rank highly on meeting and incentive planners’ radar.

“I am interested particularly in Bali because there is a new flight that will directly connect with (Moscow). I am also exploring Phuket and Pattaya to see if there are new hotels and activities for me to bring incentives and meetings over.” – additional reporting by Paige Lee Pei Qi

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