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April 3, 2007


Take a look through C&IT’s readers’ poll of destinations at the end of last year, and you’ll find many of the old stalwarts in there – Barcelona, New York and Paris – with a few surprises thrown in – Dubai and Cape Town. And a notable absence of emerging markets such as China and India. Before we launch into our own indepth look at 10 of the top overseas venues, we’ve asked some key figures in the industry what their choices are and how the international travel and meetings market is adapting to the challenges a more environmentally aware market is putting on it.

“Some of destinations are perennial winners, such as New York and Paris, because they offer the variety, the standards and the style that makes for great events,” says Eventia’s executive director, Izania Downie. “Others, such as Dubai and Cape Town, have been steadily climbing up the league tables in recent years, as they developed their infrastructure. And some manage to reinvent themselves to offer new experiences. Barcelona, for example named 2006 the Year of Cuisine, and promoted a range of cookery schools and gastronomic experiences.”

Mark Ivackovic, managing partner events at Euro RSCG Skybridge draws our attention to four very different places not on the C&IT list. “Rio – for the carnival, sugar loaf and the imposing statue of Christ; Monte Carlo – for the celebrities, glamour, luxury hotels, views and the inviting climate; Beijing – it’s up and coming, buzzing, and you’ve got access to the historic Great Wall of China; and St Petersburg – for its spectacular architecture and history, it is not your typical tourist destination which makes it even more special,” he says.  


Downie: Travel does more than just broaden the mind

Why not stay at home?
But if you have London and Birmingham, relatively speaking, on your doorstep – and these two destinations hit a lot of people’s top 10 for various reasons – why should companies be looking to hold events at overseas detsinations?

Downie is forthright on this. “Not only does travel  broaden the mind but a total change of scene takes people away from their day-to-day mindset, making them more receptive to new ideas," she says. "So if you are looking to communicate corporate messages, a fresh new environment will provide a great backdrop.  Travel is also the ultimate motivator, so if your objective is to raise performance levels via an incentive campaign, overseas destinations win every time. You may even find that overseas locations compete favourably on price against the UK.”

Cost benefits
In terms of offering value, Ivackovic agrees. “Hosting an event abroad does offer organisers additional benefits, most surprisingly in terms of cost," he says. "A comparison of the financial costs involved in hosting an event in London compared to Barcelona, highlights that the sum is very similar, even with the extra costs of flights taken into account.  In particular, further afield destinations like the US, Asia and Australisia offer good value especially with current exchange rate.”

And whether it’s from a top-level directors’ huddle, to an international convention, there is not specifically one type of event better suited to overseas travel than another. As Chris Zachar, senior operations manager in event services at the Grass Roots Group, says: “It’s not easy to say that a specific type of event is best suited to an overseas destination, it’s more to do with what are the objectives to the event, and are they best met by going overseas?”

Ivackovic agrees: “Events where the overall objectives are to inspire, motivate, reward or even inform their delegates would benefit from an aspirational overseas location. However, organisers must remember that the objectives and content of the event set by the client should be the overriding factor and cover every aspect of the trip, and the location is no exception.”      


Ivackovic: Hosting an event abroad offers organisers
additional benefits, most surprisingly in terms of cost

The environmental challenge
But with international travel increasingly coming under the spotlight for environmental reasons, surely the sending your company to a far-flung destination is not going to fit with most people corporate social responsibility (CSR) programmes?

Zachar, believes that while this is having an effect, it’s not as damaging to the industry as you might expect. “Providing an experience that is unavailable to the average individual is still the key focus for an incentive, and overseas travel will continue to be a lead motivator," he says. "However, many clients are now looking at how they can minimise their carbon footprint, either through their corporate CSR programme, or on an individual event basis, often in conjunction with the destination.”

Downie agrees: “A lot of companies are taking active steps to reduce their carbon footprint. However, interestingly, CSR includes consideration for communities, and many of the communities in developing countries rely heavily on tourism to provide people with a livelihood. We are finding that a lot of companies are eager to adopt incentive travel programmes that make a positive contribution to the destinations chosen, and actively assist local communities.”

The perfect choice
So how do you choose the perfect destination? “Be clear on your objectives from the outset and take all the relevant considerations on board: budget, timeframe, delegate profile, history – these will vary from event to event,” says Downie. “Having researched a few options identified using these criteria, the final choice should go to a destination where you have complete confidence that your suppliers will have the expertise, experience and resources to deliver the perfect event.”

Ivackovic believes that if you know your objectives the decision should almost make itself. “Destination is dependent on the requirement of the client and the objectives they have set for the event," he says. "By taking into account factors such as the culture of the brand that is being represented, group demographics, past experience, budget, duration and the required impact, organisers are able to make informed decisions on a location and venue that will deliver the required results for the client and delegates.”

EVENTS:review will help you make that choice by looking at 10 of the best overseas (and top 10 UK) destinations for conference and incentive travel. Look out for these spotlights over the coming months.


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