Good growth in groups business

Operators are reporting good growth in their groups and incentives business this year, with forward bookings for 2018 also looking good.

Olivier Perillat-Piratoine, Club Med Southern Africa’s meetings and events manager, says group travel has increased by more than 140% year-on-year for the November 2018 to April 2019 winter season, with growth coming from Club Med’s long-haul snow and exotic destinations.

Development Promotions has reported huge growth in business since launching its groups and incentives department.  

Beachcomber has also had an exceptional year and is expecting a good 2018.

Thompsons Holidays has also reported a big increase in groups and incentives travel in the last two years, while Air Austral reports a steep climb in passenger loads to Réunion Island, with good incentive business a contributing factor.

Trafalgar is preparing for its big group season in 2020 when the Oberammergau Passion Play takes place in Oberammergau, Germany, says Theresa Szejwallo, Trafalgar md. “We've already received numerous bookings for this prestigious event that takes place every 10 years.”

Participants seek more depth

Thompsons Holidays media and PR manager, John Ridler,  says incentive groups are seeking experiential and cultural activities and evening events, with the emphasis on fun.

“Increasingly groups want top international sporting events included in their incentive, such as Formula 1 Grand Prix, golf, rugby, Rugby Sevens, and soccer,” he says.

Theresa Szejwallo, md of Trafalgar, says travellers are seeking in-depth experiences, such as places that are off the beaten track and visiting places at less crowded times. They want to meet and eat with locals in their homes, and participate in cultural activities like cooking demonstrations.

When it comes to cruising, says Ross Volk, md of MSC Cruises SA, cocktail parties, themed entertainment and sports activities are sought after.

A new trend among corporates is mountain biking rather than golf, says 360 Degrees Travel’s Ramon Geldenhuys. “People are looking to be more active and seeking more health-conscious options.”

Zanzibar ticks the boxes

Zanzibar is the ideal destination for both groups and incentives, says Liane Venter, Africa Stay sales and marketing manager.

“South Africans don’t need visas to travel there, it’s just a four-hour flight from Johannesburg and is a diverse destination that offers something for everyone.

“Our clients love historic Stone Town, a Unesco World Heritage Site, with its shops, markets and rooftop restaurants. They also love exploring the traditional villages, turtle sanctuary and enjoying the miles of white sandy beaches.”

Cold climates for something different

For the adventurous, Development Promotions suggests Trekking in Iceland: the Laugavegur Trail. It is an eight-day trek that starts and ends in Reykjavik, and is ideal for small groups of up to 14 people.

Trekkers camp for five nights and stay in hostels for two; they walk on glaciers and lava fields, enjoy waterfalls, geothermal pools, volcanic landscapes and snow-capped mountains. The trip is priced at R34 000pps. 

In Alaska, Cruises International suggests these Celebrity Cruises excursions:

  • Travel by narrow-gauge railway in a vintage car on the White Pass Scenic Railway in Skagway from the tidewater to the summit of White Pass, passing  sky-high tressles, deep gorges, waterfalls, and valleys.
  • Alaska Sled Dogs and Musher’s camp in Juneau: Take a sled ride through lush rainforests, play with husky puppies and learn about dog sledding. 

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