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May 2, 2017

Sub-Saharan Africa: Tes Proos on Incentive Travel Trends

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With over 30 years’ experience in events and corporate hospitality, Crystal Events and Incentives is all about creating unique experiences. They operate in most of Sub-Saharan Africa and have a network of over 130 trusted experts assisting in just about any incentive request. Heading up Team Crystal is the dynamic Tes Proos, who is also the President of the Southern Africa chapter of the Society for Incentive Travel Excellence. She chats with the Event about her company, the incentive sector, and how global industry trends impact local companies. 

Tell us briefly what Crystal Events does and what kind of trips are in demand? 

We tailor make every single incentive programme. We look to the client in terms of their industry: where they’re from, their nationality, the culture of their business, what their budget is and what they want to achieve from the trip. Once we understand that, we can begin to make suggestions for the destination. It’s also dependent on how much time they have to travel. If they have four nights, we might stay in Cape Town because there’s a lot to do and they will get some leisure time as well. If it’s five nights, we could split it into three in Cape Town and two at a game lodge. We look at the client’s needs and what they want to achieve. The programme content is also defined by what the client wants their group to experience. Sometimes it’s purely an incentive trip; others add a teambuilding element. CSR has become important to companies – and there are so many options to explore, whether it’s a personal visit to someone’s home, a hospice, or planting trees. 

Who do you partner with to create these experiences?

We like to work with likeminded people in terms of service delivery, high standards. Our clients travel with high expectations and most of them are well-seasoned travellers who are used to the best. It’s also about relationships. It’s wonderful to have a working relationship with hotel management, restaurant management, teambuilding companies, venues; this communication is valuable. 

Do you receive many repeat incentive clients?

That really depends. We do find that large corporates will come to SA once and might look at the destination again in four or five years’ time because they like to give their employees alternative experiences. However, I might have an agency based in the UK with ten corporate clients and they could refer all ten of those clients to South Africa. So from a corporate point of view they don’t return very often, unless they look at going to a different location in the country. From an agency point of view as an incentive house, we get many repeat clients. 

What is the difference between incentive travel and leisure travel?

Incentive travel really should be classified as business travel because it’s a major motivational tool for the employees and the management that participate in these tours. Then while they’re all travelling and having a wonderful experience, some might extend their trip. We always offer, but they are often limited in how much time they can take off work. Occasionally some will stay on, but what they would rather do is come back next year with their family and make a holiday of it. This is where we find our value-add as a destination. 

What trends have emerged in the global inbound incentive sector? 

Confidence in incentive travel is definitely returning. In the past we found lead times from our source markets became as short as three months. Group size and budgets reduced dramatically, but that is changing and becoming more positive, and lead times are getting longer. This shows companies have more confidence in their sales performance, budgets are increasing, and group size is increasing, which is encouraging. I have found, though, that South Africa is expensive. If we compare ourselves to other European destinations, getting here can breaks budgets, and group programmes are much more costly than our European counterparts. So we need to be careful that we don’t price ourselves out of the incentive game. We’re a long haul destination and it’s already difficult to get here compared with other countries, we need to keep that in mind. 

Your business is probably also dependent on the global economic climate. How do you mitigate against international crises? 

It’s always so hard to predict, but the world’s situations – the Brexits and the Trumps – have all worked in our favour. First of all we have a Dollar and a Euro that have become very strong, so our destination has become more achievable. I also think South Africa has been an incentive destination for the past 20 years so there is confidence in a country where 10-15 years ago we received many security questions. We don’t get that anymore. These days they want to know if they can see lions and elephants. Internationals are excited about the destination, so South Africa has a very positive image in the market at the moment. 


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