Paradise postponed: Incentive
groups are scarce in Phuket, Thailand.
More than a year after a devastating tsunami
hit Southeast and South Asia, most U.S. incentive groups are
steering clear of the region, according to industry experts. This
holds true for incentive-caliber destinations such as Phuket in
Thailand and Penang in Malaysia, and despite reports from national
tourist boards and hotel chains (such as Le Méridien Hotels &
Resorts) that many affected properties are back in business.
Judy Jackson, director of industry relations at Fenton,
Mo.-based Maritz Travel, said incentives to the region had been
considered a developing market for Maritz prior to the tsunami.
Afterward, however, “We had only one serious inquiry for Phuket
that resulted in a site inspection, but no trip,” she noted. And
interest now, she added, at least for
the short term, is negligible.
However, Jackson and other planners, as well as incentive
suppliers, see glimmers of a turnaround in 2007 and 2008.
“I have sent quotes [for trips to Southeast Asia] to groups
looking to travel in 2007, but only to those whom I know favor
adventurous incentives,” said Janet Lallier, senior transportation
manager at Carlson Marketing, based in Minneapolis.
Likewise, “We are pitching Thailand for an incentive later this
year,” said Valerie Bertelsen, a senior buyer at Carlson.
Planners say the destination must overcome other factors
besides the tsunami, such as long travel time from the United
“Actually, I think the tsunami largely has been forgotten,”
said Ken Broadhead, program manager, transport operations, for the
West Des Moines, Iowa-based incentive firm ITA Group. “The main
concern now is bird flu.”