SPECIAL REPORT: Changing places - Spend is up in this year's CIT agency survey with emerging destinations growing in popularity as clients seek new ways to impress delegates. Jennifer Creevy reports

The never-ending request for something different is a tired story in agency life. Clients want to be wowed and won't settle for just any old incentive - everything has to be unique and tailored. Whether it's an unusual destination or a specialist itinerary, clients always want that little bit extra to impress delegates.

The never-ending request for something different is a tired story in agency life. Clients want to be wowed and won't settle for just any old incentive - everything has to be unique and tailored. Whether it's an unusual destination or a specialist itinerary, clients always want that little bit extra to impress delegates.

This desire is highlighted more than ever in this year's Conference & Incentive Travel (CIT) agency survey with a whole host of emerging destinations and spend per delegate on the increase. Last year, average cost per head for a delegate travelling long-haul was about pounds 1,853, but this year it has risen to around pounds 2,103. The average short-haul cost per delegate, meanwhile, is up by more than ten per cent to pounds 1,032, against pounds 937 last year.

'There is a realisation creeping in that you get what you pay for,' says Travel Impact director Ray Roberts. 'So rather than taking a big group off on an incentive and spreading the cost per head over a large number of delegates, clients are deciding to take smaller, select groups away and spending more on individuals.'

Taking more selective groups on incentives is a way of ensuring each delegate experiences that 'something different', says Capital Incentives director of travel and event management Chris McQue. 'We can do many more unusual activities with smaller groups and they get extra attention so they come away feeling pampered,' he says.

However, McQue believes when clients ask for something different they often mean in terms of the itinerary. 'A certain destination can be used time and again for the same client, but the incentive activities can vary each time,' he notes.

But others feel clients are also looking for new destinations. Flexi Conference operations director Pauline Gullidge believes the influx of dotcom companies is one reason why new destinations are being sought out.

'These new media firms tend to be staffed by mostly younger people who generally want to go to alternative destinations,' she comments. 'And as traditional clients see new destinations have been tried out, they too want to try them.'

Sweeping the board among emerging destinations in this year's survey is South America. 'The region has a huge potential that hasn't really been tapped into,' says Gullidge.

'One of the drawbacks of South America has always been the distance. There aren't direct flights and it's expensive to get there. But this is changing as more airlines fly there, so it is becoming more accessible and more reasonable.'

Emerging South American destinations include Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, Chile, Brazil and Peru. 'South America presents a world of eco-tourism, which is very popular,' says Gullidge.

She maintains this is most prevalent in the Galapagos Islands where tourism is limited. 'There is an environment tax of USdollars 100 (pounds 67) per person which goes to the upkeep of the islands and it would make a fantastic incentive. The area is a dream destination where you can even walk among the animals,' she adds.

Travel Impact's Roberts believes Brazil is the top emerging South American destination. 'It's a question of forgetting Rio de Janeiro, because that is already popular, and concentrating on some of the northern areas in the country,' he says. 'If they get development right then Brazil is great for Europeans because it is closer than any other South American country. Delegates can get a taste of South America without a hell of a long flight.'

Motivation Travel Management director John Lawson believes Peru has great potential because its government and economy is far more stable than in recent years.

'Orient Express recently bought properties in Lima and Machu Picchu, the site of the Inca ruins, and operates a train running between the two,' he says. 'This shows companies have confidence in the country and in its development. Its drawback is that there isn't a direct flight, although the connection is not bad from Madrid. Over the years, wonders such as the Pyramids and the Grand Canyon have been visited over and over, but Machu Picchu is still mysterious.'

Travel Impact's Roberts advises firms to be cautious of Peru and Chile.

'They are fabulous locations, but can't yet be realised as C&I destinations. They are places I would love to visit, but not to yet take a group. There are lots of issues surrounding emerging areas such as personal safety, transport, infrastructure and security, and these should all be addressed before taking groups there,' he says.

Outside South America, the survey revealed Mozambique, Tanzania, Oman, New Zealand, China and The Yukon in Canada to be the other emerging C&I hot spots.

Capital Incentives' McQue says he has looked seriously at The Yukon territory in Canada and the only thing it lacked was top grade accommodation. 'It has a depth of infrastructure and a recent 'fam' trip it hosted was supported right up to government level. This shows the whole country is gearing itself up for the C&I market,' he says. 'For a population so sparse and remote, all the specific operators are working together to create an overall package.'

This year's top-selling overseas destination is Dubai, just beating South Africa, which was last year's winner. 'Dubai comes up so frequently because it breaks the border between a long-haul and European destination,' says McQue. 'It will still have great weather when Europe is a bit chilly, but it is quite expensive. As the Emirates opens out, places such as Bahrain will take some of Dubai's market share if the country doesn't lower its prices.'

Travel Impact's Roberts says Dubai is the premier location in the Emirates and it constantly reinvents itself.

'There is great co-operation in the area and everyone gears up well for incentive groups. There is a lot to do there, but it suffers from being a one-off destination,' he says. 'The majority of our groups said they wouldn't go back because they'd seen it, done it, and they wanted to try something else. This is the drawback of Dubai. We don't find this with destinations such as South Africa because there is an endless amount of places and activities.'

When agencies were asked which countries were marketing themselves aggressively, Dubai was a common response. The emirate came second in this category behind Australia, which has been the subject of a huge marketing drive in recent months. Among its campaigns is a post-Olympic drive, pushing the fact that Australia is an achievable seven-day C&I destination.

'The Olympic Games showcased the friendly professionalism Australia offers event organisers,' says Australian Tourist Commission manager of meetings, conventions and incentives, Sheila Ainscough.

As for the future of incentive travel, agencies are becoming more imaginative than ever. A number of them have cited space travel, or even the moon, as destinations that clients will be using in 20 years' time.

TFI Group's marketing manager Catherine Amphlett claims space flights will start by 2003. 'Unusual destinations such as the Ice Hotel in the Arctic Circle and the underwater hotel in Florida are already being used for incentives and are proving to be something special for clients and delegates,' she says. 'But we will see a shift towards more ecological destinations in the next few years and then in 20 years or so to space flights.'

Capital Incentives' McQue agrees that space flights will be the future of incentives. 'We will soon see the advent of high-altitude jet liners for use in far flung destinations such as Australasia, making them far more accessible from the UK,' he maintains. 'This will then be followed by space flights, which, while sounding very costly, will eventually be available for a reasonable amount of money.'

Moving even further afield is the idea that eventually groups will be using the moon as a destination. Travel Talk II chief executive officer Roger Hunstone believes this is just one idea for the future of incentives.

'There are a large number of younger participants taking part in incentives these days and they demand more activities,' he says. 'Although we always come up with different itineraries and new destinations, we will always be asked to go that one step further. So while the moon may seem a bit far off the mark at the moment, eventually it could prove viable.'

But for now, it seems agencies are more than willing to try out emerging destinations. As Travel Impact's Roberts says: 'All it takes is an adventurous client to be brave enough to try out a new destination. Once this has happened, it opens up the place for all clients as they can see that it has worked for others.'

So from South America to the UAE, Australia to Canada, then eventually into space and to the moon, the incentive market seems to be scaling new heights - let's hope clients take the bait.


1. Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands

Ecuador is the smallest country in the Andean highlands and just a stone's throw away from the Galapagos Islands, one of the world's greatest natural history treasures.

Visa required: no

Currency: Scure/US Dollar

Climate: Ecuador can be visited all year round. The Galapagos is best from January to April. June to August is slightly chillier for hiking

Health risk: dengue fever, hepatitis, malaria, typhoid, a minor risk of cholera, rabies and diphtheria. A yellow fever vaccination is required if visiting the rainforest of the Oriente

Activities: Amazonian jungle excursion, the unique wildlife on the Galapagos, hiking, climbing, watersports, and birdwatching

Contact: Embassy of Equador in the US on +1 202 234 7200

2. Peru

Nestling between the South American countries of Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil, Bolivia and Chile, Peru covers more than 1.2 million kilometres. The country's must-see area is Machu Picchu, which offers some of the best examples of the ancient Inca civilisation.

Visa required: no

Currency: Nuevo (new) Sol

Climate: June to August is the dry season in the highlands, which is best for hiking. The wettest months are from January to April

Activities: Hiking, visiting the Amazon basin, trips to the Lost City of the Incas, Machu Picchu, boat excursions, fishing

Health risk: immunisation against cholera, hepatitis, malaria (in the lowlands) rabies and typhoid. A vaccination for yellow fever is essential if the trip includes visiting the eastern slopes of the Andes of the Amazonian Basin

Contact: Peru Embassy on 020 7235 1917

3. Chile

Chile borders Argentina, Peru and Bolivia. Its string-bean shape gives it a long pacific coastline and in the east the Andes mountain range surrounds the country. Visitors can take a trip to Easter Island, the world's most remote inhabited island, or to one of its natural attractions, such as Parque Nacional del Paine in Magallanes.

Visa required: no

Currency: peso (Chdollars)

Climate: The weather is varied in any season. Santiago and the middle of the country are best from September to November or February to April. The country's ski resorts are ideal from June to August

Activities: trekking in any of its many national parks, climbing, river-rafting, horse-riding, skiing, trips to Easter Island

Health risk: cholera

Contact: Chilean Tourist Office on 020 7495 6700

4. The Yukon/Canada

Although Canada is an established C&I destination, the Yukon Territory has not been fully explored for all its potential. The area lies to the west of the country, bordering Alaska. Among the activities available in the territory delegates can take in Kluane National Park. The St Elias Mountains are within the park's borders and these include the highest mountain in Canada, Mount Logan.

- Visa required: no

Currency: Canadian dollar

Climate: The peak tourist season is between mid-June and mid-September, but if you want to ski then winter or early spring is best

Activities: canoeing along the Yukon River, wildlife tours, ice fishing, river rafting

Health risk: none

Contact: Canadian Tourism Commission on 020 7258 6478

5 China

China sits in the middle of a wealth of Asian countries, including Vietnam, India, Mongolia and Korea. Its must-see attributes are endless - from following the Silk Road route to exploring the Dr Seuss landscape of Guangxi Province.

Visa required: yes

Currency: Renminbi (RMB). Basic unit is the yuan

Climate: March to April and September to October are the best times with daytime temperatures from 20 deg C to 30 deg C, but nights can get cool

Activities: mountain biking, hiking, caving, camel-riding, skiing, ice-skating, t'ai chi

Health risk: rabies, bilharzia, dengue fever, malaria and cholera.

Immunisation against cholera, hepatitis A and B, Japanese encephalitis, polio, rabies and typhoid is essential

Contact: China National Tourist Office on 020 7935 9787

6. New Zealand

For a compact country, New Zealand has a lot to offer, including glacial mountains, deep lakes, rainforests, hissing geysers and boiling mud. Its surface area is just 269,000 sq kilometres and neighbouring countries include Australia and Fiji.

Visa required: no

Currency: New Zealand dollar

Climate: The country is a year-round destination, but during the high season of December to February it can be very busy in the tourist hotspots. June to August are the best months for skiing, but it can get cold in the South Island

Activities: bungee jumping, jet boating, whitewater rafting, caving, skiing, hiking, diving, swimming with dolphins, gambol with newborn lambs and whale watching

Health risk: no immunisation needed

Contact: New Zealand Tourism Board on 020 7930 1662

7. Brazil

Brazil takes up the majority of South America, bordering ten countries. Its highlights include the famous five-day Mardi Gras carnival in Rio de Janeiro and the Amazon River.

Visa required: yes

Currency: real (plural, reais)

Climate: Most of the year has comfortable weather except the south, which can prove sticky in summer and experience non-stop rain in the winter

Activities: hang-gliding, surfing is best in the southern state of Santa Caterina or close to Rio; sailing is popular in Buzios; fishing, rock climbing, hiking, and soccer

Health risk: Chagas' disease, dengue fever, malaria, meningitis, rabies, and yellow fever

Contact: Brazilian Embassy in London on 020 7399 9000

8. Oman

The Sultanate of Oman is often overlooked, but is a land of dramatic landscape and friendly people. It is at the bottom of the Middle East, bordering Yemen, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Visa required: yes, the visa is valid for one entry, but if a visitor's passport shows evidence of travel to Israel, entry will be denied

Currency: Omani riyal (OR)

Climate: mid-October to mid-March is the best time to visit. Avoid June to September, because it is monsoon season in the south

Activities: mountain and desert motoring, and watersports are the recreational mainstay of many hotels. In Muscat most will have a private beach and equipment including diving gear

Health risk: immunisation against malaria

Contact: Embassy of the Sultanate of Oman on +202 387 1980 81 8

9. Tanzania

Tanzania sits below Kenya with the sunshine island of Zanzibar close by. It houses famous parks such as the Serengeti and Mount Kilimanjaro. Wildlife includes lions, crocodiles and flamingos.

Visa required: yes

Currency: Tanzanian shilling (TSh)

Climate: January and February is hot and dry and the best time to visit.

To see the Serengeti at its best avoid the dry season as virtually all the animals disappear to find wetter climates

Activities: safaris, treks to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro, hot-air ballooning over the Serengeti, swimming with dolphins, scuba diving

Health risk: yellow fever, malaria, tsetse fly, meningitis, bilharzia, hepatitis, cholera, and typhoid

Contact: Tanzania Trade and Tourist Office on 020 7407 0566

10. Mozambique

Mozambique is putting its civil war behind it. Highlights include world-renowned beaches and colonial architecture. Advice prior to a trip is essential.

Visa required: yes

Currency: Metical (Mt)

Climate: During June to August rainfall and temperatures are at their lowest. In late August and September, temperatures start to rise but this is the best time to see game

Activities: diving, snorkeling; the Maputo Elephant reserve is a good spot for birdwatching

Health risk: bilharzia, hepatitis A and B, typhoid, diphtheria, tetanus, meninogococcal meningitis, polio and malaria.

Landmines are prevalent and most are unmarked, so it is not safe to wander anywhere without a guide

Contact: Mozambique Embassy on 020 7587 6343


UK                              Overseas

1.  London                      1.  Dubai

2.  Birmingham                  2.  South Africa

3.  Edinburgh                   3.  France

4.  Manchester                  4.  Spain

5.  Glasgow                     5.  US

6.  Stratford-upon-Avon         6.  Hong Kong

7.  Bath                        7.  Italy

8.  Brighton                    8.  Singapore

9.  Blackpool                   9.  Portugal

10. Somerset                    10. Turkey

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