The new generation of buyers is well travelled and looking for exciting experiences to tell their friends and family about, according to Katrina Rannard and Teresa Allen of BI Worldwide. So where are those special, untapped incentive destinations that will live long in the memory?
The audience at C&IT Agency Forum got to hear all about the incredible experience Rwanda, East Africa has to offer. "The more we researched it, the more it seemed like the ideal MICE destination," said Rannard of the destination also known as the land of a thousand hills.
However, as a country it still suffers from an image problem, they explained. BI Worldwide carried out a survey and got very different generational results on perceptions of Rwanda.
BI Worldwide’s research found that older generations still associate the name Rwanda with negative news coverage they saw over 20 years ago, whereas younger respondents thoughts were of "adventure and gorillas," said Rannard.
Now it’s a place with "world class, high-tech conference facilities in Kigali [the capital city], which is considered the meeting hub of Africa." Turning Rwanda into a first-choice tourist destination has been a coordinated effort between the government and private sector companies like hotel group Raddison and they have come a long way in the past year.
"They’re doing it well in the rural areas, there aren’t cranes everywhere," said Rannard. It’s being done in a positive way, with thought given to the long-term future of the communities and their livelihoods."
Taking part in corporate social responsibility (CSR) projects with the local communities is one of the many activities on offer. Allen described ‘Umaganda’, an initiative in which every Rwandan gets involved in a community project on the last Saturday of every month. Rannard and Allen took a trip out there to coincide with this day and helped build a house.
"CSR projects have endless options," said Allen. "And we’ve got a client, where part of every single event they do is to have a day of CSR. It’s great for those sort of clients."
And let’s not forget the chance to see gorillas up close. "The bucket-list activity of spending time with gorillas makes Rwanda an ideal incentive location," said Rannard. "There’s nothing like it – we were a metre away from a silverback eating his lunch!"
Ending the presentation with a video of their own experience of Rwanda was a good move by the BI Worldwide team – after the site of golden monkeys, buffalos and cute baby gorillas you got the feeling every member of the audience wanted to visit Rwanda.
When asked if they had any short-haul untapped destination tips, Rannard and Allen’s answer was a mysterious "watch this space." A wise move at an forum full of eager delegates on the lookout for the next hidden travel gem.
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