Incentive Newsline: Asia Back in the Picture

Interest in the Region Rises, as New Destinations Emerge

Jane SchuldtAfter a four-year dry spell, U.S. firms are once again considering Asia as a viable incentive destination.
    Many suppliers from the region were optimistic one week after the Motivation Show, the incentive travel and product exhibition held in Chicago Sept. 28-30. Among them was Jane Schuldt, CITE (right), president of Minneapolis-based World Marketing Group, who said she was “overwhelmed with work” in following up on leads and requests for proposal regarding the region.
    “If my projections hold up, business this year will be just 11 percent off my highest year,” said Schuldt, whose firm represents hotels as well as destination management companies, including Pacific World, one of the largest DMCs in Asia.
    Terri Steinberg, national market development manager for Singapore Airlines, secured two pieces of business during the show and anticipates more to come.
    Gabriel Tseng, vice president, United States and South America, for the Singapore Tourism Board in New York City, also sees a strong 2005 and 2006.
    Planners and suppliers noted that while groups are coming back to Asia, many are interested in different destinations this time around. Mike Helin, founding partner  of the Ambassadors Group, an incentive company based in Newport Beach, Calif., said his clients are particularly interested in China.
    Schuldt said 80 percent of the requests she received this fall are for China, followed by Thailand, Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Bali.
Vietnam and Cambodia are of interest to Carlson Marketing Group’s customers, according to Mary Ryan, CMP, senior sales planner for the Minneapolis-based incentive firm.
    Even Japan, a country that has attracted little U.S. incentive business in the past, is anticipating growth. Bruce Kanfer, director  of sales and marketing for the Japan Convention Bureau, said requests for proposal have increased in the past 12 months, as planners look for fresh destinations for top performers.