By: Rajeev Kohli, CIS


Today’s incentive travel planners are seeking new destinations that provide unique, authentic and memorable experiences. And, there are many emerging and non-conventional destinations that fascinate planners – countries that offer great experiences in geography, gastronomy or culture  –and may be able to deliver something different, unique and unusual.

Having said this, one often comes across clients where conservative standards of quality, conventionality, accessibility and homogenity run contrary to delivering the basic objectives of incentive travel. What a DMC or destination wants to do is often in opposition to a client’s desires. The balance between conformity and distinctiveness is a challenge emerging and non-conventional destinations are facing in the incentive travel market.

A basic problem of many emerging destinations is how to position themselves in an eco-system that desires something different, but wants it delivered the same ways they are used to. This is not an issue easily fixed by physical infrastructure. Changing perceptions about a destination requires significant effort to create an image and positioning statement that can be presented by all  stakeholders. Visuals, speaking points, marketing collateral and more need to be created and provided  to DMCs, hotels, tourist boards and others who sell the destination.  To consistently build and communicate a destination’s brand, all stakeholders need to speak the same language.

It is easy for a destination to fall in love with its own story and lose sight of what the customer really wants. Just because you think you have great scenery, food or history does not mean others see it the same way. It is a very competitive market and many destination tourism marketing messages sound the same. It is important to understand that different source markets require customized messaging. What sells to the Americans may not be relevant to the Germans or the Chinese. Destinations who are able to adapt their marketing to different cultures are ones that will  be most successful in attracting new business. 

Stakeholder training is essential to help build the skills of people who have to deliver incentive travel. This training should come from organizations, such as SITE, that understand the needs of unique destinations and who are experts at planning incentive programs. Emerging destinations also need to adopt best practices from around the world to supplement the destination’s existing qualities. Professionalism and a sense of confidence  go a long way in convincing the incentive buyer that they have made the right choice.

Selling a new destination takes knowledge, takes innovation, take perseverance and, also, takes money. Don’t be in a rush to reinvent the world in a year. But with some hard work, you will achieve positive, long-term results.

View the case study of Creative Travel’s 2017 Crystal Award winning program for Amway Europe & South Africa Diamond Conference. The Maldives served as a stunning backdrop for the 200-guest, 5-night incentive program. While consistently rated as a top vacation spot, this emerging destination does not easily accommodate groups of this size. Creative Travel confidently took on the challenge knowing that the location itself would be the incentive that wowed Amway’s top achievers. 



About Rajeev Kohli, CIS:

Rajeev Kohli, CIS is Joint Managing Director of Creative Travel, New Delhi, India – a family legacy of two generations that has showcased this part of the world for over 40 years. Serving two terms as SITE President in 2016 and 2017,  he is passionate about incentive travel and his company has won 8 SITE Crystal awards for excellence in incentive travel programs, the most of any company in all of Asia. In 2017, Rajeev was recognised by Incentive Magazine as one of the ‘25 Most Influential People in the Global Incentive industry’. In 2015, he was was awarded the  “IMEX Academy Award”, a highly prestigious recognition for contribution to a chosen profession.