Experiences of a US Travel Specialist
It is always great to see our articles causing discussions and response from the readers. When I published the article on congress tourism few days ago, the main aim was to focus the attention on one part of our tourism industry we simply don’t pay enough attention to. Tonight, I received great feedback from Jo-Anne Helotes, former VP of Progressive Incentives, now a Travel Specialist for Century Travel in Austin, Texas, with years of experience when it comes to organising events in Croatia.
Jo-Anne was kind enough to share her view of Croatia’s current offer, what these kind of guests is looking for and reasons why her clients were more than happy to organise their events in our country. Maybe there is a lesson here to be learned so let’s have a look at her tips and recommendations, shall we?
When we are deciding on a location for our groups, these are our main considerations, and not necessarily in this particular order:
1. Flight times, connections and lift
All these things can kill a destination. If it takes too long to get somewhere and or the connections are lengthy and difficult, we may dismiss the destination. If a group involves top producers, companies rarely want them out of the office more than 7 days including a weekend. The longer the distance to fly the better the routing needs to be to shorten the time travelling in order to lengthen the experience on the ground.
2. Quality of accommodation
Most of our clients are luxury travellers who have very exact expectations of the properties they stay at. These expectations include location, distance from the airport (preferably not more than 45 minutes transfer from the airport), accessibility to tours and attractions, spa, room service, on site dining and the room product itself. For incentives of a certain size, it is imperative that our block of rooms is similar in quality, so the attendees don’t feel like another Winner has a better room. They will stay in less luxurious accommodations if the destination itself is the attraction for example, remote islands where you forego great hotels to have a once in a lifetime adventure.
It is important for groups that the destination infrastructure is set up to handle them. This means a wide variety of tours and activities that appeal to a wide arrange of people with different interests as well as transportation to activities, to and from the airport and transportation such as reliable taxi or transfer services when exploring the destination during their own free time. Event organisers need partners on the ground who understand the destination and the level of excellence that our attendees demand. This particularly is the case for our DMC partners. American groups are different than European groups and our partners need to be well aware and educated about that.
In today’s world, this is always a conversation topic and one of the prerequisites when organising a congress or an incentive. Clients want to know if there are any travel alerts from the State Dept., If the city has a crime problem and whether or not their attendees can safely wander around the destination. Most of our customers are savvy travellers and over the years we have very seldom worried about serious security problems, especially in Croatia.
Always an issue. Depending on the size of the group, certain destinations will be eliminated immediately due to prices. Air pricing is a key factor in this equation. If you are spending $1,500.00 per person before you have gone anywhere, this can seriously impact the group’s budget. Croatia can be in and out of this category based on the time of year and availability of flights, and during off-season this does tend to cause a problem when Croatia is in question because the flight connections are simply not as well as they should be.
And now, why we love Croatia
1. Still widely undiscovered by the American market. For experienced travellers who have been almost everywhere, discovering a new destination is always at the top of their priority list the most fun. The discovery and experience trumps any potential bumps in the program due to the above mentioned items.
2. Croatia is still a value proposition. The U.S. dollar goes further in Croatia which means we can spend more in the country, both for the group as well as what they spend on their own.
3. Croatia offers something for everyone: cultural, historical, educational, architectural as well as stunningly beautiful beaches and natural parks. Tours and activities are plentiful. We have found that some of the DMC’s, however, do not include smaller vendors. We have booked independently of DMC’s when we felt that they did not provide the most unique or special way to see a site, activity or attraction, and I do believe DMC’s should work harder on widening their offer and try to come up with more original products.
4. Croatia’s food is delicious and affordable. In all my time spent in Croatia, I have never had one complaint from the groups and we have always had great service. However, if the restaurants were more up to speed on taking credit cards, that would be helpful for groups and attendees.
These just some of the things I have noticed during my time spent in Croatia. However, since my discovery of your country is still not finished and I am planning on brining many more groups over, I am sure that the list of reasons why we all love Croatia will widen considerably with each new visit.