July 01, 2003
Meetings & Conventions: Incentive News


Sans dollars: Fewer groups visit Paris.
Sans dollars: Fewer groups visit Paris. A year ago, international suppliers were looking forward to regaining business, lost after 9/11, from the U.S. incentive market. But enticing American groups to foreign shores is proving difficult, due to a slower-than-expected economic rebound, SARS and the continued threat of global terrorism.

Suppliers interviewed in late May by M&C discussed the challenges in selling far-flung destinations to U.S. planners in these cautious times.

“Although there was a time when South Africa’s share of the U.S. incentive market was growing, the past year has been rather slow for us,” said Solly Moeng, U.S. manager for South African Tourism (who announced his resignation from the organization at press time). Moeng cited the state of the American economy and many incentive planners’ preference for destinations nearer to home as reasons for the decline. Yet, he said there are signs the situation is improving.

In SARS-plagued Hong Kong, tourism officials have put many of their incentive marketing efforts on hold, although the travel advisory has been lifted.

“These things are cyclical we know incentives eventually will come back,” said Kevin Welsh, regional director for the Hong Kong Tourism board. “For now, we’re concentrating on the association market, since they book so far out.”

Michael J.S. Freeland, vice president, sales and marketing, at LSO International, a destination management company with operations in France and Monaco, said he is once again receiving requests for proposals from U.S. planners. At press time, however, France and other European Union nations faced a new challenge: the dollar’s drop against the euro.

Nevertheless, Freeland believes planners might be enticed by the destinations’ latest offerings as well as by their safe reputation. Lee Derrick, regional director for sales at the Old Course Hotel, Golf Resort & Spa in St. Andrews, Scotland, has radically changed his approach to the market by reducing his trade show participation and “hitting the road” to visit clients.

“You don’t necessarily walk away from these meetings with handfuls of RFPs,” said Derrick, “but you get good quality time with your clients, where you can talk specifics and have dinner, lunch, cocktails, etc., with them, at a fraction of the cost of attending a trade show.”

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