Incentives will bounce back stronger, though adjustments have to be made in new normal: experts

Panellists at the first SITE Thailand webinar discuss the future of incentive travel

The Society for Incentive Travel Excellence (SITE) Thailand jumpstarted its new webinar series with a discussion on the future of the incentive travel, where topics included adjustments the sector will need to make in the new normal.

“What remains unchanged is people’s desire to travel; however, a sense of safety, confidence and hygiene must be there,” stated Nichapa Yoswee, president, Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau (TCEB), one of the panellists.

Panellists at the first SITE Thailand webinar discuss the future of incentive travel

The other panellists were Sumate Sudasna, president, Thailand Incentive and Convention Association (TICA); Jennifer Glynn, president, SITE Global
; alongside Alicia Yao representing SITE China
 and Nitin Sachdeva representing SITE India.

The session was moderated by news anchor Honey Cholaphansa Narula, and saw 593 travel professionals tuning in.

“TCEB is now working closely with TICA and SITE to come up with tailor-made guidelines to cater to each source market because each will have its own requirements. The whole intention is to make sure we can support whichever (source market), whenever and wherever so that they can bring in the groups as easily,” Nichapa stated.

She also pointed the audience to the new Thailand Redefine and MICE Venue Hygiene Guidelines campaigns, both a part of TCEB’s three-year restoration plan for the events industry.

Other topics discussed included taking a stab at which markets will bounce back the soonest. China and India remain tops, with the luxury incentive sector also on the list.

“China business and incentive travel will come back first,” opined Yao, referencing the travel corridor between the two countries is the most likely to open up. She added that Thailand would do well to introduce and entice the China market with early bird recovery destinations.

Sachdeva said India should not be overlooked, stating that the country has been one of the “fastest come-back markets”.

“Once the rules are set, once the government allows it, they will definitely bounce back very quickly,” he opined.

Glynn meanwhile, predicts that luxury incentive travel will rebound “with charter flights and boutique hotels”.

To this end, Nichapa added that the market could possibly see exclusive buyouts of hotels to facilitate group isolation, and enhance the sense of safety and hygiene for all delegates.

Yao and Glynn also pointed out that incentive programmes could be scaled down, although this did not mean a reduction in budget, as social distancing would be more costly to implement.

In addition, sustainability would get more focus in incentive programmes, predicted Nichapa.

Despite current setbacks – all 2020 programmes have been postponed for one to two years, according to Sumate – the outlook remains bright for incentive travel.

“Studies indicate that 90 per cent of individuals miss the live experience; the more we are suppressed, the more we need to go out,” Yao said.

Agreeing, Nichapa said people would adapt to the new normal in other to have their social gatherings.

The biweekly webinar series, presented by SITE Thailand in collaboration with TICA and supported by TCEB, will be followed by, We are all in this together: The empathic communication to get closer to your clients on May 29; and Germaphobes’ Rules: Reorienting your business to gain trust from health-concerning clients on June 12. More details will be available on SITE Thailand’s Facebook page.

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