This week we gain an Industry Member Insight as we talk to new SITE member, Graham Alderman, owner and Managing Director at UK-based Ulterior Events. Founded by Graham’s father in 1991, Graham is proud to be able to continue his father’s legacy as this year they celebrate 30 years in business. Graham’s passion for travel and delivering once in a lifetime experiences has seen him driving classic cars across Provence, Bollywood dancing in Jaipur and masterminding safaris in Botswana. This is a man with plenty stories to tell! Ulterior Events was also named winner of C&IT’s Incentive Event of the Year 2020 award.

Graham, tell us a little about what you do…

Ulterior Events is a boutique events agency specialising in the management and delivery of corporate incentive travel. We’re passionate believers in the power of travel to incentivise teams. Over the last three decades, we’ve taken groups to 94 countries… and counting!

How did you find yourself working in the incentive industry?  

I grew up listening to my father’s tales of the incredible incentive events he managed around the world, from long-haul trips for 650 people to flying The Beach Boys to the Bahamas. As he grew older and less able to travel I assisted him more and more before eventually taking over and investing in the business. I’m proud to continue his legacy and love every minute of it.

How do you approach trip planning when working with a new client? What do you need to know to plan the perfect incentive trip?

We get the ball rolling with a deep dive to find out what makes the group tick – their likes and dislikes, where they’ve been before and what they’re trying to achieve with the trip. As we pitch new destinations and thoughtfully curated itineraries we aim to strike a careful balance of being open to honest feedback whilst having conviction in our proposals. Clients pay us to be the specialists after all – and we’ve learned a thing or two about group travel over the last 29 years! 

Ulterior Events will celebrate its 30th birthday this year. What’s changed since the company started out? 

The fundamentals of the industry haven’t changed – we still pick the locations and meticulously design, organise and manage every detail of every trip to give every individual guest the trip of a lifetime. Technology has made all of that easier, from mobile phones to data roaming and WhatsApp. The downside to tech advances and the availability of information online is unverified review sites where clients might change their opinion of a known and loved restaurant you’ve booked for their trip owing to one anonymous bad review.  

In the aftermath of this pandemic, do you think how we travel, where we travel and the way we travel will be changed forever?

No. It will take time for confidence in travel to be restored and there will, of course, be a heightened focus on safety and hygiene but now the vaccine is being rolled out I’m positive our industry is on the road to recovery. It’s taken various lockdowns, quarantines, and the best part of a year confined to our own four walls to remind us what a privilege it is to travel. Our inbuilt urge to explore is greater than ever.

You’ve worked in an events based business for your whole life. Now that social gatherings are few and far between, how are you keeping up with your community? Where do you look for insights and inspiration?

Without being able to travel, working from home has given me more time to watch what our contacts and competitors are doing via platforms like LinkedIn. Learning from them and looking out for opportunities to collaborate. We have been keeping up with clients virtually over afternoon tea and wine tastings, trying to stay connected in creative ways. 2020 and 2021 have been unchartered waters for everyone so there is no blueprint for what to do. You just have to be agile, adaptable and upbeat – and do what you think is best.

What are you most looking forward to in a post-pandemic/post-vaccine world?

Boarding a plane. Moaning because it’s delayed. Forgetting my phone charger. Plane food. The blast of warm air as the aircraft doors open on arrival in hot countries. Wrapping up in thermals to visit cold countries. Views from balconies. A minibar G&T. Beach BBQs. Endless buffet breakfasts. Pre-event nerves. Post-event euphoria. Watching large groups let their hair down and have fun together knowing that we organised it. To name a few! I can’t wait.

If you could give one piece of advice to those hoping to work in or just starting out in the incentive travel industry, what would it be?

Do it. But remember that an event is only as successful as the hard work that goes into the planning. It’s not all champagne and catamarans. It’s hard graft and long hours on-site but is worth every bead of sweat when you see weeks, months and years of planning come to fruition.

Last but not least, what has been your favourite trip to date and where can’t you wait to go back to once restrictions ease?

After such a subdued year I can’t wait to get back to colour and chaos. I have incredibly fond memories of trips I’ve taken to both India and Vietnam, where I love the cuisine, the sites, and the people. I’m also excited to hop over to Italy again where last year saw us host a huge group in Rome – private palaces, opera singers and opulent banquets feel like the stuff of dreams right now but I’m confident we can make it a reality again soon!

Interview with Graham Alderman, Ulterior Events, UK

Interview with Graham Alderman

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