UK: Incentive travel - a rewarding experience. (4 of 4)

UK: Incentive travel - a rewarding experience. (4 of 4) - Bright agrees that there is a skill to designing the right package and choosing the correct destination. "It is a very creative business," he claims. "For instance, you couldn't take a party of va

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Bright agrees that there is a skill to designing the right package and choosing the correct destination. "It is a very creative business," he claims. "For instance, you couldn't take a party of van drivers to a five-star hotel as they would feel uncomfortable."

But senior executives, remarks Watts, tend to be "hard-bitten types" who do not respond to the kind of "teasers" reserved for their salesforce. "They are used to travelling. Meticulous attention needs to be paid to every detail." Country house hotels in Ireland, which have the "beautiful feeling of going overseas without necessarily having an overseas budget", suit this group, he believes. A stay at the Fitzpatricks Castle Hotel overlooking Dublin bay can be combined with an outing to the races at Curragh, or a flight to Shannon which opens up many golfing opportunities.

Indeed, incentive travel need not necessarily be overseas to be appealing. The UK still has its advantages, argues David Hackett, chairman of The Travel Organisation - part of The Marketing Organisation. The improved quality of UK hotels and their conference facilities, combined with a growing reluctance to see staff out of the office for too long, is influencing companies to hold at least some of their events at home, he says.

Injecting more excitement into the actual event can make up for the loss of an exotic overseas environment, Hackett believes. Sophisticated audio-visual presentations - perhaps hosted by a comedian like Lenny Henry - and unusual leisure activities are designed to compensate for having to leave passports at home. By chartering the Orient Express or first class Pullman trains, time spent travelling to the event can also be used more effectively. Alternatively, a helicopter arrival at Nidd Hall in Harrogate or Hambury Manor in Ware will have hotel waiters welcoming guests with champagne as they touch the ground.

The ultimate choice of destination, though, depends as much on the amount of time available for a trip as it does on cost. An average three-day incentive trip barely warrants a destination more than three flight hours away, whereas travelling to the US needs at least a five-day round trip; and to take advantage of some of the attractive deals in the Far East or Caribbean requires even longer. Hence short-haul European destinations still comprise the bulk of foreign travel. Mixing with the Parisian jet-set at the Deauville races, a stay at Chateau D'Artigny in the Loire valley, taking the waters at Baden-Baden in Germany, a weekend at the Tivoli amusement park in Copenhagen or at the festival in Venice is viable for a budget of around £500 per person.

People's expectations are continually growing and companies want bigger and better each time. Australia, Malaysia, India - there is no shortage of new destinations to satisfy demands for exclusivity, quality and value for money. The greatest restraint is, of course, finding the time.

(Sara Pennington is a freelance journalist.)

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