I remember when I was young that my father used to attend “Socials”. These were none other than late-1960s networking events but without the business cards. The foreground emphasis was on the social, but such gatherings solidified interpersonal communications and support structures that transcended purely business motives.
Most of us in the MICE and Incentive Travel sectors are involved in organising and attending business networking meetings and events that have a social character. Some of our best and longest-standing relationships and work friendships are established during the social as opposed to the formal business aspects of these events.
Social linkage is frequently transformed into business connection at a later date. For first impressions, personal interactions and human empathy can be neither digitalised nor replaced by AI and VR.
Incentive Travel organisers, meeting planners, host destinations, accommodation suppliers and event venues should increase their understanding of and emphasis on social occasions, physical locations and contextual designs where participants and peer groups can indeed get to know each other better and interact more successfully.
Where people can take time out to informally bond, make introductions, explore potential relationships and nurture existing ones in a communicative and fluid environment - without having to remain, for example, rooted in a single spot for a whole evening.
The Society for Incentive Travel Excellence Bangkok Manifesto could serve as a dynamic catalyst in enhancing this process by encouraging Incentive Travel that is socially and ecologically responsible; programmes where the strictly business makes way for the “familial” atmosphere we experience, enjoy and appreciate during SITE's own international conferences, Incentive Summits and SITE NITE events.
For who knows who we will meet, be introduced to, share stories with and eventually end up doing business with?
This is a gentle call for our industry to constantly reflect upon and engage in further Incentive Travel development and transformation - being receptive to new people, new situations and inherent possibilities. Remaining relevant in a fast-changing geopolitical economy and in fluctuating global alliances, cultures and societies - that is the challenge, therein lies the opportunity.
As Delivering Happiness author Tony Hsieh says, you will not necessarily know exactly what the benefits will be, but if the friendships are genuine, the business benefits will indeed magically appear!