As the world changes, so does incentive travel

Destinations the world over are dealing with the fallout from unpredictable events – incentive travel can help keep ties strong

The past year has seen the world change in ways one could never have dreamed of. Acts of terror, national elections and extreme social and economic policies – there is no region in the world that has not been impacted by a changing geopolitical environment. From terror, to extreme weather, to mosquitos, the travel and tourism industry cannot anticipate where our next challenge will come from.

Travel and tourism is the largest industry in the world. Sustained demand, together with its capability to generate high levels of employment, continue to prove the importance and value of the sector to global economic development and job creation. The latest report from the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) shows that the global travel and tourism industry employs more people than the automotive manufacturing, banking, mining, chemicals manufacturing, and financial services sectors. Travel creates opportunities, empowers communities and enhances local livelihoods, yet it is the one economic sector that gets affected the most by any turbulence in any part of the world.

As the world changes, so does incentive travel. It is here I find the dichotomy in


words and actions. Incentive travel is about motivation. About providing that special impetus to make one’s customers or employees feel good about their jobs. But incentive travel is also about doing right by the destinations we visit. Incentive groups not only leave footprints behind, but also valuable dollars in spending. So, when a destination is suddenly excommunicated, the effects are tremendous. Coming from India, a developing nation, I understand this very well.

Is not travel also a socially responsible activity? Do we not support local cultures, people and families when we take incentive groups to a destination? Do we always evaluate the consequences of placing a destination in cold storage? I have often been asked by our members across the world on why there are different yard sticks for judging an incident in the developed world and the developing? I wish I had an answer that could make everyone happy.

Terrorism knows no distinction between race, colour or creed. London, Paris, Sao Paulo, Istanbul or Bangkok are all equally safe or unsafe. Companies who sell, buy or source across different nations have a collective responsibility to stand up to those that wish to keep us home and show them that we will not be cowed down. This does not mean we discount real dangers, but rather we do not label every incident the same.

The bottom line is that in the world of incentive travel we often work with companies that are global. Companies who have strong economic ties across the world. Incentive travel provides an ideal platform to build stronger relationships

among colleagues from around the world. It promises unique experiences for qualifiers, exposing them to new destinations and expanding their understanding of people from different countries and cultures. In turn, it helps foster greater understanding, tolerance and empathy for others.

Our industry’s success requires an understanding of various cultures in order to design
programmes that embrace global diversity. Incentive travel programmes provide a
bridge between the power of diverse travel experiences that inspire people to deliver excellence – and the sense of human solidarity we envision as the most important benefit of a global economy.

SITE remains a champion for the global business marketplace, particularly for the experiences that serve as real inspiration for people, whether they are across the street or across the globe. Our international board of directors – made up of industry leaders from nine different countries is committed to engaging our members, chapter leaders, sponsors and partners to create a strong sense of community built around our core values of connections, creativity, trust and results. This is why it is more important than ever for industry organisations like SITE to embrace our responsibility to advocate for a world that is safe, open and inclusive, and educate our clients that today’s world is a lot smaller.

The world will always change. That is a constant. I call on the global incentive travel industry to embrace this reality and take on the challenge of delivering exceptional experiences with an open mind and large heart.

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