Monday, 29 November 2010

INDIA - Putting Sensation into Incentive Travel

Whether coincidence or a natural by-product of the destructive attack on the Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai two years ago, but at the same time as reopening their Mumbai icon, the Taj Group has just rolled out its exciting Vivanta brand.

The Vivanta brand has added further polish to 16 hotels that now join the three launch and development products, re-branding nineteen hotels and totalling 2,500 rooms. Ray Bickson, MD & CEO of Indian Hotels Company Ltd described the launch as “testament to the dynamism and innovation of the Taj” adding to its 107 years history of superlative service.

Giving it its full name, ‘Vivanta by Taj Hotels’ is described by Ajoy Misra (Senior VP Sales & Marketing) to be positioned at the “Upper-upscale segment”. He went on to say how the brand will “combine the charming hospitality that is the hallmark of the Taj and overlay it with a contemporary, energetic and vivacious twist”.

Great words and great reinvention of luxury profiling. And, despite Ajoy’s copywriting license, the Vivanta product seems to hold its own.

A fabulous example of ‘the twist’ and how contemporary service can sit amazingly within the culture of India’s ancient, ritualistic, colourful and enticing destinations, is what was The Taj Green Cove, Kovalam, Kerala. Now Vivanta by Taj Hotels, Kovalam, the added polish turns a wonderful five star Indian retreat into a truly aspirational incentive.

Kerala is at the southernmost point of India washed by the Arabian Sea. A million miles from the politics of Mumbai, the Vivanta Kovalam comprises 59 cottages climbing ten private acres of palm covered hillside. Their rustic character is topped by elephant grass thatch, which adds to the get-me-into-there jungle ambiance. Private balconies, plunge pools, central infinity pool overlook the swaying palms to the sea beyond. To one side the ocean, to the other the gentle calm of the region's famous backwaters.

Part of the ‘twist’ that turned the Green Cove into the Vivanta is the service level and re-fitted appointment of the cottage accommodation. The Jiva Spa takes serene relaxation and rewarding therapy to new levels. A ‘must sample’ experience is the Keralan signature Ayurveda treatment. The dining concept has changed too, their chef creating exquisite cuisine that is as delightful as the location is unique.

The ASPIRUS twist is that even thinking about India as an Incentive Travel event destination puts a sense of adventure into travel. This is not a five star Dubai sun bed and cocktails by the Royal Mirage pool. This is a travel experience to challenge the senses in every respect:  

Arrive in style, accompanied by
Caparisoned Elephants with traditional Temple attire
Accompanied by 21 Temple drummers
Garlanding with fresh flowers and welcome drinks

Discover the Backwaters of Kerala.
Cruise the small canals passing paddy fields,
villages and small water townships.
Enjoy the scenic beauty, flora, forna, elephants at work.
Experience the unspoiled rural life of Kerala.
Sunrise walk along the beach
Join fishermen pulling in catch for the day.
Tuk- Tuk ride to the fisherman's village
Experience day to day village life

Visit to Hindu Ashram
Watch a traditional Kalaripaiatu performance (the origin of Japanese martial arts)

Relax, dine and be pampered in superlative Vivanta style.

To add adventure to Incentive Travel, the detailed planning and management must raise its bar to the highest level. Success depends upon pre-planning and exemplary ground handling, which is another example of ASPIRUS’ efforts to find the right Destination Partner (DP), in this case Equinox. We call them DPs rather than DMCs as the concept of ‘partnership’ realistically extends our own ethos from client liaison right through to successful ground delivery.

The confidence created by planning and partnership supports inspired, exciting itineraries giving guests the chance to safely immerse themselves in regional ethnicity.

In short it turns the Travel Incentive ‘wow’ into the truly memorable and motivational “OMG WOW !”

Business Class flights with Emirates via Dubai ease the ten hour flight to Thiruvananthapuram, which is just 30 minutes from Vivanta by Taj Hotels, Kovalam. This route is priced at about £1,500 making the five star sensations of Kerala an affordable luxury.

ASPIRE    ACHIEVE    and enjoy the sensation

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

BUDGET BUSTING – can we afford to drop Incentive Travel

YESwell, actually NO.

It needn't be long-haul champagne
to have a great craic
But we can re-engineer it to suit economically revised budgets and still drive the additional passion to succeed.

Unchecked, incentive costs can often run away with themselves.

Around the Boardroom table there’s usually:
  • one who flies the Incentive Travel flag, appreciating how much ‘the guys’ thrive knowing the late nights will be rewarded as he and his wife will soon be off to Tenerife with the rest of his winning south west region team.
  •  The FD pours over spreadsheets tutting at the five star locations and business class travel, all for three nights away with no proof of sales increase accounted to the cost.
  • The MD sports the arbitrator’s hat carrying Travel as the d riving force to motivate key players but directing that the costs must be cut.
Tunisia's Arabian Nights
are just a short 3 hours away

How do we get more from less. Yes, we need to deliver more in terms of event effectiveness because we need the teams that travel and franchises we reward to come home feeling as buzzed as they would have been if the event cost 30% more.
I spoke with ‘sales leader’ recently who had “…tried Incentive Travel and it didn’t work…”. Let’s look at the three key elements here and see if “didn’t” can be turned into “will”:

We have covered some of the criteria that make the event an Incentive as opposed to an irrelevant date in the diary.

 In short it has to be clearly structured. If there are rules, keep them simple and make qualification a raised bar but deliverable opportunity – something that is worth working towards. And don’t take universal interest for granted – work your internal CRM to communicate / sell the benefits.

Put the effort into selling the Incentive, they'll put the effort into buying it.

Fewer numbers open smaller, wonderful hotels
with a different outlook - on Barcelona perhaps.

Don’t forget that we’re Budget Busting so need a cap. If 50 usually travel, the biggest saving comes from taking fewer heads, 44. The carrot has to be as juicy but the rules preclude a total win win. We need the incremental sales from the non-qualifiers as well as from those who will travel. And they need to be attributable to keep the FD happy.
  • Detailed – yet simply packaged.
  • Universal – yet with qualified selectivity.
  • Random – yet progressively manageable.


Racing isn't an all-round winner -
so try the Baden Baden August meet.

One man’s joy is another’s worst nightmare. So how do you pick a destination / venue to drive all?

There are key components that combine to make the event a success or a great success. 

The destination can always be tailored to suit the group profile. This tailoring is part of the selection process, but more importantly dictates the nature of the event once there. The itinerary – what you do: where and how you dine; how much or little should be organised; how much team herding or how little.

To build the itinerary to deliver something for everybody, we need to know who the ‘everybody’ is.

Getting there dictates the amount of effort your successful delegates (guests, please) must make to physically participate. For a national or internationally distributed sales force, the more local we can make the point of departure, the more universal the effort to succeed. Efficient transfers, minimal airport check in times. Fluent hotel check ins and more importantly check outs.

Budget Busting at the Travel end of the Incentive is the thinking planners’ joy:
Ljubljana, Slovenia is a picture postcard
incentive on a budget
  • There are exciting destinations slightly off the beaten track though equally accessible.
  • Flight operators’ price structures often make them less costly to reach.
  • There are fantastic four star hotels providing every comfort of the five star at the other end of the lake, and
  • because they are not on the ‘conference’ trail they are off the price hike radar.
  • There are restaurants whose chef is proud to push the culinary boundaries beyond the take-it-for-granted chain hotel venue.
  • There are creative itineraries that keep everybody busy, happy, interested, focused.
  • And there are destinations that itinerise themselves - all reducing transfer, guide and itinerary costs.

Simple really.
The more that goes into planning, packaging and promoting the Travel Incentive, the more they’ll put into qualifying to get there.


Monday, 8 November 2010

MALTESE KNIGHTS - has the salesforce incentive in a daze

Here’s an exercise I’d like to share.

Take a blank sheet of paper and a pencil. Now draw the coastline outlining the Mediterranean Sea, from the Straights of Gibraltar, up the coast of Spain around France, Italy’s boot, then wiggle a little for the Adriatic, Greece and Turkey. Pass a half moon to the right for Syria, Lebanon, Israel to the top of Egypt. Now west over Libya and Algeria (not forgetting Tunisia) and back to the narrow gap between Ceuta and Algeciras. Okay, now, draw an x where you think Malta is. Not so easy.

We can usually do Cyprus and Crete (even in the right order). The potpourri of other Grecian islands are usually only named and claimed by those who frequent them most. Corfu - hmm? Sicily’s a given as the ball (rugby) at the Italian toe. Sardinia and Corsica often bring a furrowed brow. The Balearics beat gently off the Costas and the Canaries bake in breezy sunshine off the north west of Morocco.

Most of these Mediterranean jewels offer wonderful Incentive Travel and Conference destinations, with exciting venues, supportive resources and glorious weather. Accessibility is surprisingly not to be taken for granted and limit Mediterranean business opportunities far more than one might think.

By the way – it’s south east of Tunis, 58 miles south of Sicily and 180 miles north of Tripoli.

But Malta, with its extraordinary history, its global fiscal importance, its wealth, beauty, charm and climate offers so so much. It offers much both as a Conference destination and particularly as an aspirationally competitive target, adding edge to short-hall Incentive Travel programmes.
Its 7,000 years of history are proven first by the mysterious megalithic temples dedicated to the goddess of fertility whose promise of enjoyment move on through the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans and Byzantines who have all left their archaeological mark.

More recently, a mere five hundred years ago, Charles V gave Malta to the Sovereign Military Order of St John of Jerusalem. For the next quarter millennium, The Knights took Malta through ‘the golden age’, creating a European stage that affected 17th and 18th Century culture, inviting and keeping the works of Caravaggio, Mattia Preti and Favray who they had embellish their churches, palaces and auberges.

The French had a bash at claiming Malta for themselves but their two year influence was sufficient only to introduced an ability to make a passably decent Crème Anglais!

At Malta’s request, Britain kicked them out and protected their sun-baked holiday island until its independence in 1964.

The history it fascinating but the proof the pudding is in the eating. So let’s introduce you to life as a successful sales team who have won three nights with partners in Valletta. Come taste the Crème Anglais.

Make the budgets allow three nights at the Hilton on the waterfront at Portomaso.

(Little known fact: Rodney Bashford wrote much of the launch copy to sell Portomaso leisure and business property to the UK market before the first cement mixer even turned up.)

Portomaso puts the A in Aspire, being a playground to the rich and famous who own and visit, sail and dine locally. Guests will sail and dine locally too. The marina’s modern extreme contrasts beautifully with the fortified medieval facades of Valletta. Valletta is just fifteen minutes by road or a charming morning cruise by private motor yacht.

Because of its wealthy heritage and playground ambiance, Malta is rich in the number of vintage saloon and sports cars that are available for guests to enjoy. Quite a spectacle is to set up a Le Mans row of cars outside the hotel. Guests then drive (or are driven depending on the car!) in convoy across the island to arrive in time for dinner at a medieval castle. Gather outside the castle gates to be served drinks as the sun sets. Then follow the torchlight pageant through the gates to dinner in the baronial hall.

There are endless sea and land based adventures to be created,
  • artifacts to see,
  • beaches and coastline to explore,
  • restaurants and bars to enjoy,
  • nightclubs to dance,
  • shops for therapeutic retreat from the sun
- and so much more on Malta.

Perhaps most importantlyit still offers excellent value for money.

Flights:  Three operators fly the 3 Hr 10 Min route direct to Valletta, Malta from London offering a variety of arrival and departure times, with Air Malta providing the best round trip option at the moment.

Our local agents will help us tailor Malta to any corporate need -
Conference, Product Launch, Incentive Travel, Boardroom retreat.

Please call 02476 609 104 for more information.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

COSTA RICA - uniquely rewarding achievement

There are few places in the world where so much variety can be enjoyed within such a small  relative distance of the hotel or resort. Perhaps surprising too is the range of hotel type, each with individual outlooks.  There’s a truly motivational incentive itinerary to suit most Incentive Travel budgets and almost any guest profile.


Geographically the Pacific Coast is an adventure in itself. Ecologically, Costa Rica offers one of the most fascinating bio diverse habitats in the world. The topography combines rainforest treetops, volcanoes meandering rivers and warm sultry beaches.

Guests can be as noisy as the Howler Monkeys, as colourful as the Toucans and Macaws and as laid back as the Sloth.

Costs Rica’s mid-Pacific menagerie can be savoured from the luxury of Four Seasons on Papagayo Peninsula; or more practically the Guanacaste Marriott; then there is the lively Paradisus Playa Conchal - and so many more.

Our local Destination Partners help us to create an itinerary specific to each client brief that we develop, based on the nature of the guest profile and the experience we need them to leave with to feed the motivation machine in the business back home.

We can do sedate cultural discovery, where:

  • the vibrancy of the flora and fauna are sufficient to raise the pulse.

  • The heart can beat a little faster on a short canopy tour and gentle safari,

  • and floating on the Corobici River.

  • For pulse-racing adventure-seekers there is more besides:

  • turn the canopy tour into a high wire trapeze excursion through the treetops,

  • a sky walk in the Tenorio Volcano Conservation Area.
  • And boil the waters for a more exciting white water ride.

The Pacific Ocean has much to offer above and below the water. As well as some of the most amazing rainforests and colorful wildlife in the world, it also boasts some of the most breathtaking beaches. Soak up the sun or ride the waves. There are beaches on which to party, BBQ, explore and perhaps enjoy the decreasingly private lives of the Leatherback Turtles.

Ocean adventures include fishing above the water and snorkeling below it.

Perhaps less known about sporting opportunities in Costs Rica is the range and quality of the Golf in this equatorial paradise.

Evenings and nights are a playground of opportunities to indulge in spa treatments, throw dice at the casinos and dine in a culinary breadth of styles from the local to international and fusions between the two.

Getting there: Paradise is a fair way off in travel time so we recommend taking it the easy way. Fly BA out of LHR to Miami but don’t connect through. Stay over and do the ‘local leg’ at ease the next day with Continental to Liberia. The return offers a good connection with the 20.45 out of Miami and overnight back to LHR.

Remember, as we mentioned in our last piece, we can make budgets go further by flying out Premium Economy and return Business Class for the flat-bed comfort of the overnight route to London. Ask for more information and we will put you in touch with our flight partners.

Contact us also for ideas to make the Miami overnight a celebration of industrial success in its own right.

South Beach Miami