Case study: A fresh destination for a high-profile incentive group

Coming up with fresh ideas for incentive trips is one of the main challenges faced by any incentive company. Sue van Winsen interviewed Thembelihle Buthelezi, senior specialist: Incentive Travel from Uwin Iwin to find out more about a recent incentive organised for a high-profile group in Sri Lanka. 

Q: What was the brief received from your client? 

A: The brief stated that the travellers were high profile and had travelled extensively locally and abroad in their personal capacities. Based on this, we then proposed destinations that the participants would have been unlikely to have travelled to on their own and Sri Lanka was one of them. 

Q: What was it about Sri Lanka that stood out most as a good option for this group? 

A: It was definitely the fact that it’s still a fairly unfamiliar and unexplored destination for South Africans, especially in the MICE industry. 

Q: How did you find the process of working with travel suppliers in Sri Lanka? 

A: The process was smooth and efficient as we worked with a commendable supplier who has good representation here in South Africa. 

Q: Once you had settled on Sri Lanka, what were some of the other considerations you had to factor in when designing a successful incentive programme for your client? 

A: We had to consider shortening travel distances where possible, especially since our programme was short (four nights) and jam-packed. After the site visit, we changed the programme slightly by moving the group to a beach resort closer to the airport without compromising on the quality and experience. 

Q: Were there any challenges you encountered along the way – and how did you overcome them? 

A: While on the site visit, I was surprised by the long travel times. Even though Sri Lanka is not big, due to the fact that the country is in the process of constructing highways, a 100km distance takes an average of two-and-a-half to three hours, because you have to drive on two-lance congested roads through small towns and villages. I then made certain that the travel distances were communicated clearly on the pre-trip communication (the itinerary), and in person on our departure day from South Africa. We also broke the journey up by stopping en-route. On our way to Kandy from Colombo, we had lunch at Ambepussa, which is a halfway point. Also, on board the coach we provided WiFi, and a variety of refreshments and snacks for each transfer. 

Q: What were some of the main highlights?

A: Unquestionably the food and the humility, kindness and warmth of the Sri Lankans! Other highlights were the Colombo Highlights tour in tuk-tuks, Sigiriya Rock Fortress, a traditional Kamatha lunch and a three-hour trip between Kandy and Negombo on board the vintage train – Viceroy Special.  

Q: What was the feedback like from your client?  

A: Based on the remarks on the trip and survey results, the participants feedback was exceptional. Some of the comments in the survey included: 

  • Every aspect of the trip was a highlight. Starting with the tuk-tuk trip through Colombo, Sigariya, Monica the elephant, the farmers’ lunc, cultural entertainment in Kandy and the tea plantation and production. Every aspect was fantastic. 
  • The farmer’s lunch was a major highlight. The simplicity and genuineness was commendable. 
  • I loved the food, company and the Sri Lankan people’s outlook on life.

Q: If you could offer corporates any tips if they were considering something similar – what would they be? 

A: I would recommend a minimum of a five-night programme, for a good balance of group activities and leisure time.