Making Incentive Travel Work in 2021

By Sanjeev Joshi, President, SITE India and Nitin Sachdeva, President Elect, SITE India

We all know that COVID-19 has adversely impacted tourism and hospitality. Yet the industry has been resilient throughout the pandemic and now is on the verge of coming back to life. Vaccine being a huge contributor to this revival – majority of the world population being inoculated is helping build the confidence in travel. This reflects in the pent-up moment in domestic travel segment, visible in India and many countries in Asia and Europe.

Our research shows that the segment of corporate clients has already started moving their incentives to domestic destinations.

From conversations with our global partners, we have gathered a similar evidence in several countries across the globe. This has been made possible with implementation of strict hygiene and health safety measures at all consumer touch points like the airport, hotels, attractions, and transport—all the services we render to our clients. The Government of India has already initiated a formulation of guidelines for hygiene and health security for the travel industry. This is being done with partnership with our countries to create a common set of parameters to reflect on the services of quality hygiene for the customers travelling to and from India.

Speaking specifically on the outbound segment, we have seen a huge movement towards countries that have allowed Indians to travel on a tourist visa with a simple Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and have connectivity under the available agreements with India. SOPs are written step-by-step instructions on how to perform an activity such as travelling during COVID-19 time. A number of corporate clients organising the incentive groups to destinations like Dubai and Maldives have accepted Indians on a tourist visa and simple SOPs. However, many of them are still waiting for regularly scheduled flights to open up from India to kick start any international travel from India.

We have found multiple decision-making factors that will help destinations and providers from any country to focus on the Indian market in a better manner. These are the important factors that we have found in the research with over 35 corporates and over 50 meeting and incentive agencies who are specifically providing MICE for the outbound segment.

The first and foremost factor is that corporates are considering no quarantine if RT-PCR test is negative; that’s a very important factor. If a destination has a quarantine requirement to travel, corporates might not consider it because that will impact their budgets. RT-PCR Test can become a norm before departure and on arrival, which we have seen has been one of the norms with traveling to Dubai and Maldives, and it’s been pretty well taken by all corporates. Health and hygiene is the number one factor considering the health safety from the corporate point of view, because they want to make sure that the employees and their leaders are absolutely safe. Health insurance, which covers the expense of the quarantine, is essential as the cost of quarantine can be a budget issue that the corporate would not like to bare.

The Indian government opening scheduled flights would be the first most significant factor or a sign to global travellers that it is safe to travel to our country. Hence it is important to see when the scheduled flights are resumed as the Indian government is already working with many destinations that can actually take advantage of traffic from India.

At least 10 to 15 percent of the corporates have not liquidated their budgets from last year, and they are committed to incentive travel, which they find is a number one tool to motivate their employees and dealers. They also believe that incentive travel will play a key role to increase performances as the employees and dealers have more urge to travel after being home for more than a year under restrictions.

If you are targeting the India market, then you can consider the aforementioned points that will allow you to have a great chance to attract these corporates towards your offerings. Meeting and incentive agencies are very confident that once the scheduled flights from India open up, India and other destinations receiving tourists from India can have favourable SOPs. There would be a flood of groups upon destinations opening their borders. This can be seen in the in the travel towards Maldives and Dubai, which have not seen any local transmission as clients have followed the guidelines in the destinations and complied to the requirements.

Considering the overall scenario, the above-mentioned factors will aide tour operators to attract tourists to their destinations and create an effervescent incentive travel for 2021.

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