Ignite Destinations

Incentive Travel Report 2015

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D ESPITE THE CHALLENGES OF A WEAK CANADIAN DOLLAR, planners working on corporate incentive travel programs are busier than ever. For Diane Alexander, account executive at Strategic Meetings + Incentives, based in Toronto, the summer was a busy one, with plenty of propos- als going out for programs in 2017. Trying to judge the value of the Canadian dollar adds an extra level of aggravation in managing a program. "We're mindful of our clients' budgets and the impact of the exchange rate on our programs. It gets tricky as we're projecting two years ahead right now—it's a bit of a juggling act; we put together a program based on our best guess of what the exchange rate will be. There may be some parts of a program that we will have to take out to be on budget," she says. And it's not just program activities that are being impacted, she adds, "In terms of destinations right now, I'm noticing our clients are interested in buying sooner to get the hotel product that they want—they have to be willing to buy further out than they have been in the past." And despite cur- rency •uctuations, European, US and Canadian locales are top destinations for groups. Destination Hot Spots Hayley Bishop, CMP, account director at Wynford, also based in Toronto, says she too is asked to ˜nd greater e™ciencies in her programs, as budgets are not increasing. She says about 75 per cent of Wynford's incentive travel happens in January. "We go to a lot of hot climate areas. Think Miami, San Francisco, San Diego, Arizona and the Dominican Republic," she says. Alexander echoes that sunny destinations are a hit with her groups as well. "We do a lot in California, Las Vegas and Hawaii, our clients love to head to where the warmth is." As for Europe, she says "there is a lot of interest in Dublin right now, and I don't really know the reason for that. Maybe because there is more lift going into the city, and it's not a very long •ight." Increasingly, security concerns and international hot spots—of the political variety—do impact on destination choices. "We stick to destinations that we know are safe. Obviously anything could happen there too, but you need to look at what's happening in the world and you just have to react to situations if they arise," says Alexander. Generational Divide In addition to ˜nding a great destination, both Bishop and Alexander say a range of generations is in play in the workforce and incentive programs are responding to that challenge. Alexander says "we are getting a range of generations with our programs as more millennials are achieving incentive rewards. The attendees are younger, more tech savvy and there is much more awareness and interest in apps and how to use social media, if appropriate to use, in programs." Alexander says diŸerent types of activities, speci˜cally physical, such as bike tours tend to get a good response. As for Bishop, she says "its important to oŸer individual autonomy and freedom of choice within the larger whole program. Although individual requests need to be catered to, make the group piece one that is bonding, so that they talk up the group experience when they return home as collegial or familial." BY SANDRA EAGLE FUTURE LOOKS BRIGHT incentive travel report

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