Information or Seminar trips - or familiarisation trips as they were once known - are a significant aspect of destination marketing in the MICE business events sector.
Factors such as participants, stakeholders, partners, timing, themes, concept, content, invitations, communications, trip-delivery and follow-up have all to be considered and planned in detail.
Unlike classic destination marketing which distinguishes in terms of local, national and / or international tourist interest, what attracts a global incentive travel planner may not be the iconic visitor event but indeed a little known local attraction.
I recommend organising market specific and smaller trips, with an efficiently delivered programme geared specifically to participants' work schedules and client requirements.
Every seminar trip component should provide clear answers to three basic questions:
- Who are we?
- What can we offer?
- What benefits and value derive for participants and their clients from what is on offer?
A good exercise is to distil each of your answers into a "Tweet" (i.e. 140 characters).
While invitations may be of a teaser or creative nature, they should feature a short paragraph listing services that will be provided free-of-charge such as flights, accommodation and meals. MICE travel planners also want to see which stakeholders are involved to make their decision easier and / or to have their participation signed off by superiors.
As part of the registration process feel free to ask potential participants about any specific information they would like to receive during the course of the trip and special themes which might be of interest to them, their colleagues and / or clients.
Participants are not only your "agents", they are also your industry multipliers and opinion-formers. Their advance feedback is extremely valuable in tweaking what you intend to offer and to present.
Please bear in mind that when a MICE travel planner accepts a seminar trip invitation they re-arrange their work schedule appropriately, especially as a trip may take up a considerable part of a working week or weekend. They accept and register in good faith and expect you to delivery on what you promise.
Plan events out of high-season (March to June; September to early-November) and out of school and public holidays (depending on country or Federal State).
Confirmations to participants should contain day-by-day programme timing and key details, including full contact information for hotel accommodation. Use of subtle headings and short evocative syntax should leave plenty of room for exclamation and surprise during the trip itself.
Germans, for example, like to experience seminar trips as their clients would. Your trip is not a dress-rehearsal - not some abstract entity. It is the real thing. So make your guests really welcome and comfortable from the first moment. Draw upon their curiosity and willingness to learn. Encourage their active participation and listen to their considered criticism and record their spontaneous feedback.
This means you have to choose your concept and themes, partners and locations, your accompanying staff, your coach drivers and your our guides very carefully. They have to be well-briefed in advance and allowed to input ideas and suggestions of their own.
You may even include an "informal" get-together over local food and entertainment on the first evening where stakeholders are present. Always remember that people and relationships are what the MICE industry is all about.
German MICE travel planners will, for example, seek perfect logistics and adequate capacities for what their business requires - timed to provide a sense of what you are all about but neither hectic nor rushed. They lay special emphasis upon efficient and friendly service; cleanliness and no obvious wear and tear; creativity and surprise; novelty in detail and above all - a competent and professional approach.
Remember that your trip is "live" and that you have only one chance to impress!
Participants can never guarantee that they will use the specific hotels where they stay nor the locations and conference centres they visit. Many of today's incentive travel programmes have strict client procurement and compliance guidelines. So it will all depend on who is actually doing the buying.
Stakeholders should, however, concentrate on telling their stories and explaining exactly what they do. They should highlight elements such as F & B and logistical and communications mastery, and how they can go that extra mile in becoming a stage where trip participants can imagine their incentive travel programmes being rehearsed and acted out.
That way your destination partners - whether these be DMCs, PCOS, hotels, restaurants, conference centres, activity or AV suppliers, entertainers, airlines, cruise, coach or rail transport companies - will ensure a unique, motivating and memorable experience, proving themselves to be MICE travel professionals and reliable business partners. People with whom your trip participants would really like to do business with.
At the end of the final day you should present a post-breakfast or pre-lunch 15 - 20 minute seminar trip summary presentation with AV back-up: who they met, what they experienced and how all this could help them find solutions to their company and / or client needs. Preferably in a simple but unusual setting. This will be very much appreciated. Feedback received at this point is also most valuable.
It is also worth bearing in mind that your participants fly with airlines who can actually handle and service MICE business event requirements. Talk to your airline partners about business class upgrades and passes for business lounges. This, too, is all part and parcel of selling your destination. First and last impressions usually begin and end at airports!