By Brad Foster

They’re not calling it a resurrection but a whole new ballgame for the Australian and New Zealand incentive travel fraternity.

More than 10 years ago now the Society of Incentive Travel Executives had a chapter in Australia. For various reasons it ceased to exist. Until now.

With a slight tweak to its name to the Society for Incentive Travel Excellence, Australia and New Zealand once again has its very own chapter, with co-presidents Marissa Ferndandez and Damion Breust already welcoming 40 members.

For a chapter to actually be allowed under the SITE constitution, a minimum of 20 members is required. With 40 members to date SITE Australia & NZ is already punching above its weight.

And Fernandez and Breust predict there will be more members to come within the next few months.

SITE globally has 2500 members in 90 countries with 32 chapters. Members work in what SITE says is a $75 billion industry which also happens to be the fastest growing and best performing sector in group travel, with the highest per person spend in the travel sector.

Fernandez and Breust’s desire to get a local chapter up and running was wholeheartedly embraced by the global group.

“SITE was really keen on having a presence in this part of the world because they have so many markets covered, particularly in Europe, Africa, and the US,” explains Breust.

Aside from providing a wealth of educational tools for members via its online portal, one of the best things about the society is the connectivity it fosters globally.

This is particularly important for people like Breust who is the CEO of Directions Conference and Incentive Management which runs dozens of incentives internationally each year.

“The networking opportunities are amazing,” agrees Fernandez who owns Destination Marketing Services which represents destination management companies around the world in the Australian and New Zealand market.

“Everyone is more than willing to help you wherever you are wanting to take a group to in the world,” Breust says.

“And it’s the only association that is totally and completely focused on incentives,” Fernandez adds.

This need to have high quality contacts around the world is imperative for the Australian and New Zealand incentive travel sector because it is now such a mature market.

“What I’ve found so useful is that if we’re working in a new destination that we haven’t worked in  before and we’re looking for a good quality DMC [destination marketing company] then we can speak to other SITE members who will give us recommendations.”

“With incentives a lot of what we do is built around having strong relationships around the world, particularly as we’re looking at creating money-can’t-buy experiences and you need to have such trust in the people and companies that you are using wherever you are going in the world,” Breust adds.

“Because of SITE’s membership and connectivity around the world you can really find and work with very good people.”

After working out of Asia for more than a decade, Breust returned to Australia two years ago and immediately noticed how mature the local market now was.

“In Asia, incentive group sizes may be bigger but it’s not as mature. Groups make go to places like China or New York or Paris or London.

“In Australia people who win incentive travel rewards have been to those places and are wanting to do something much bolder and different. They’re visiting places like Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania and Alaska.

“As some of these are new to us we have to ensure that the people we are working with in these destinations are highly professional and our SITE network helps us with this.”

What is also different in the Australian and New Zealand market is that incentive travel groups travel for longer which means programs are far more detailed and complex.

Whereas an incentive travel reward out of the U.S. may be two or three days and nights with delegates travelling to nearby Canada or Mexico, an incentive travel reward out of Australia or New Zealand is a minimum five night stay and often significantly longer.

As a representation company for DMCs, Ms Fernandez has also seen the maturity of the local market.

“Ten years ago Asia probably got 60 per cent of our business. That’s really changed. It’s more like 40 per cent going to Asia and 60 per cent going to the rest of the world,” she says.

Aside from the adventurous nature of local incentive travel delegates, part of the shift from Asia has come about because of the entry of Middle Eastern airlines into the marketplace, with many now offering flights to European destinations for just over $1000 per person.

“The Middle Eastern airlines have really helped to open up the rest of the world to us,” Breust says.

“Accessibility, getting all the seats we need, and affordability has really helped. You can get a group seat to Singapore for $700 and for another $300 or $400 you can go to Europe. And accommodation prices are now similar.”

Taking Australia to the world

The other positive about having an Australia and New Zealand SITE chapter is that there will be more opportunities of promoting what the two countries “down under” are doing in the incentive travel sector to SITE members overseas.

“We as a market do some amazing programs that the rest of the world don’t know about,” Breust says.

“That was one of our motivations as well [to establish a SITE Chapter here]. We really need to get the word out there what a huge incentive market there is in Australia and New Zealand and we do some amazing programs. The stuff we do here is amazing and so different to anywhere else in the world.”

“At IMEX in America this year we had a huge reception on the Australia stand for our chapter and we had about 100 or more people attend from right around the world,” Fernandez says.

“The SITE global president spoke about our chapter and we had the opportunity to speak about our market and what we were trying to achieve here. Even just at that gathering when the formalities were done so many people came up to me and said we want to bring a group to Australia, what can we do? Who do we speak to? So much business would’ve been written from that one event.”

Plans for 2020 include the creation of a local Young Leaders’ program with the aim of retaining and attracting younger people to the incentive travel sector.

Throughout 2020 Ms Fernandez and Mr Breust will be contributing to micenet on incentive travel under the banner of SITE.

In the meantime, to learn more about becoming a SITE Australia and New Zealand Chapter member contact them on: damion@dcim.com.au or marissa@destinationmarketing.com.au. And visit www.siteglobal.com to learn more about SITE.

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