Last summer, international suppliers were less
than enthusiastic for their prospects of U.S. incentive business.
Many firms shied away from sending top performers outside of the
United States for several reasons: SARS, the war in Iraq, politics
and the slower-than-expected recovery of the economy.
Now, it seems the tide is turning, and groups are once again
“For the first time in a few years, the outlook for incentive
travel outside the United States is positive,” said Mary T. Ryan,
CMP, senior sales planner for Minneapolis-based Carlson Marketing
Group. “No matter how well traveled winners are, there is a
preference now for the old Europe standards London, Rome and the
South of France.”
That’s music to the ears of suppliers such as Chris Lynn, North
American sales director for VisitLondon. “Business definitely is
picking up,” said Lynn, who recently concluded a nationwide tour of
U.S. incentive firms. In the Great Lakes region alone, 17 of the 20
firms Lynn visited had programs to England this year. “Their
clients are getting a bit of cabin fever from domestic
destinations,” he said.
While safety is still a concern with planners, Lynn said the
devalued British pound is more of an issue. (At press time, one
pound was equal to US$1.85.) To help entice groups, he said,
British hotel chains like Thistle, Millennium and Radisson
Edwardian were offering guaranteed dollar rates for 2005.
France, which lost business due to its opposition to the Iraq
war, also sees incentives on the upswing. “Business has improved a
lot in the last few months,” said Anouk Thiebaut, the French
Government Tourist Office’s manager, USA, for meetings,
conferences and incentives. “We have noticed a much bigger
Europe is not the only beneficiary of the revived interest in
international programs. Last month, James LaValle, manager of
conventions, exhibitions and corporate events for the Hong Kong
Tourism Board, held a fam trip for 30 incentive buyers, whom he
said felt “very positive” about selling Hong Kong programs in the
long and short term.