Destination brand presence critical to convincing event owners: planners

Destinations that have maintained their marketing investment throughout the pandemic years are most likely to be the ones to win the hearts of corporate meeting and incentive trip planners today, say agencies.

Rodney Yew, director of Kent Holidays in Singapore, told TTGmice at AIME 2023 that he has “several” corporate meetings and incentive movements bound for Australia this year alone, with most heading to Melbourne and Sydney. These groups from the Middle East and Asia will involve 250 to 350 delegates altogether.

Ketut: leverage the influence of event planners

“And more are likely to materialise since it is only early part of 2023 now,” he added.

“Australian cities maintained strong destination marketing throughout the years when travel to the country was not possible, and that made our clients missed or desired the country a lot,” Yew explained.

Fioren Cahyadi, travel services manager with Destination Tour in Indonesia, too, finds that a good reputation makes it easier to pitch the destination. For her team, Japan and Thailand are easy sells.

Yew said Thailand and Singapore are also strong contenders too, as both have been active with destination marketing and trade engagements during the travel disruption.

Underlining the importance of the destination brand, Ketut Jaman, managing director of Melali MICE in Indonesia said Bali has continued to be a popular corporate meeting and incentive travel destination despite having reduced its destination marketing in recent years.

“Bali is now well known for so many things – its culture and nature, as a tourism hub of the country with excellent infrastructure and variety of attractions and cuisines, good air access provided by both international and domestic airlines, and tourism products available across a wide price range. And it is all because of previous effective marketing and an ongoing good events track record. So, even though central government-led marketing is not as intensive as before, and not as intensive as other MICE cities now, Bali continues to impress,” Ketut said.

Having said that, Ketut noted that the destination reputation would only open initial doors to clients’ hearts. For destinations to ultimately secure clients’ sign-off, their reputation must be matched by the practicalities of good accessibility, suitable infrastructure and potential to meet event owners’ objectives.

“For instance, Indonesian banking institutions will prioritise destinations that are advanced with fin-tech, while government agencies will prefer to meet in cities where there is both political stability and progress,” he elaborated.

Fioren observes that after reputation comes cost, as well as the destination’s ability to fulfil the client’s travel and event objectives and to take in large groups at last minute’s notice – the latter being a common occurrence today.

Costs, according to Yew and Fioren are especially scrunitised today, amid a backdrop of inflation and restricted budgets.

If the client insists on pricey destinations like Japan, Fioren said they would then trim expenses by choosing cheaper accommodation, shorter duration – “perhaps just five-days and three-nights” ­– and more affordable flights.

When asked if emerging destinations without deep marketing pockets would lose out to savvy competitors, Ketut said they could still catch up by laying the groundwork ­­– establish sufficient air links, events infrastructure and a trained service team – then relying on leading event agencies to influence clients’ decision.

“Very often, our clients will ask us which city is better for meetings and take our inputs seriously,” said Ketut.

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