Incentives in Thailand
By Deanna Ting
December 3, 2013
While the majority of U.S.-based groups choose destinations such as the Caribbean for their incentive trips, a growing number are considering long-haul destinations such as Thailand, as shown in this year’s Incentive Industry Roundtable. For a glimpse into what incentive groups are choosing to do in Thailand, we spoke to Ana Henriques, general manager of Phulay Bay, A Ritz-Carlton Reserve
. Through the end of this year, the resort is now offering full- and half-day packages for meetings and incentives that include complimentary meeting room use, coffee breaks, a three-course lunch; complimentary bottled water and mints; and state-of-the-art A/V. Here’s what Henriques had to say about incentive travel trends in Thailand.
Q: What makes Thailand such a unique and particularly special destination for incentive groups from the U.S.?
A: Thailand blends together incredible natural settings with a strong culture that inspires many group activities. In addition, it is a tourism-focused country which has developed year over year a fantastic genuine sense of hospitality and great level of service. Location wise, it offers easy accessibility in Southeast Asia and great weather all-year round, which allows delegate to enjoy the incredible natural resources that this country has to offer. In addition, the food quality is one of Thailand’s highlights, which can be enjoyed not only in every catering function but as well through group activities such as traditional cooking classes or cooking competitions or more unique raw food cooking classes which our chefs organize to teach the unique balance of spicy and sour, which is the focus of Thai cuisine.
Q: What trends are you seeing among U.S.-based incentive and meeting groups who are coming to your property?
A: For incentives and executive retreats, I see more and more the need to find private, exclusive yet unique venues which offer the opportunity to make the meeting the center of the attention of the property. With our property size, buy outs offer that type of privacy and unparalleled attention in service and makes each incentive delegate feel special and rewarded like never before. At the same time, because people are more and more well traveled, companies are looking for destinations that heir delegates or board members have not yet experienced. Less commercial, more authentic, and true experiential properties can really make the trip memorable, giving prestige and additional value to the company organizing it.
Q: What are some unique group activities that you can do in Thailand that you can't do anywhere else?
A: I particularly love the activities that we design to give back to the local community and support the environment, which is a key component in our destination since we are located in a national park area. Phulay Bay is offering an activity called “Releasing Nemo.” This meaningful experience will be a day of water activities in Phi Phi Island consisting of inclusive training on clownfish species, symbiotic living with anemones and the threat to their reproduction system, as well as underwater photography guideline and training on protecting of reef and underwater environment. Guests will receive a T-shirt of Green Fins (the nonprofit organization we partnership with), training material, and disposable underwater cameras the night before, and a picnic lunch to enjoy on the boat ride back from Phi Phi Island.
Other unique group activities include an Island Hopping Treasure Hunt where delegates are divided in teams. We rent long-tail boats for each team while our Recreation Team hides messages in bottles in different islands which face Phulay Bay’s shores. The team needs to follow the hints and find the “hidden treasure” while discovering some of the most beautiful islands worldwide. Phulay Bay faces 40 different islands on the Andaman Sea and occupies a privileged spot for exploring.
Ao Thalane is one of the most beautiful mangrove bays in and around Thailand and is ideal for kayaking. It’s a superb setting or a first time encounter with Krabi’s ecosystem. The region contains good examples of traditional villages and several species of Kingfishers, Little Herons, and Crab-Eating Macaques, which are guaranteed sightings in the remains of a jewel destination, still unexplored.
Q: Tell us about your property and any other new developments or features that would be of interest to meeting and incentive groups.
A: Phulay Bay, easily accessible by air, land, and sea from both Krabi and Phuket International Airports, provides spacious, conventional and unconventional venues for incentives or corporate retreats. The various spaces available for meetings include indoor, outdoor, formal, and informal areas that blend comfort and technology with exotic set-ups and stunning views. Additionally, Phulay Bay, A Ritz-Carlton Reserve boasts five restaurants ranging from traditional Thai to international cuisine, offering a variety of daily options for intimate business settings to more casual and creative settings, and everything in between. Each restaurant features dishes made from only the finest ingredients, sourced from local markets each morning, including fresh fish and seafood that reflect the culinary inspiration of Southern Thailand. Spaces can accommodate both small and large events, from 10 to 200 people, perfect for larger meetings and events to smaller break out sessions and focused groups.
Q: Why launch a new program specifically for meetings and incentives? How much of your business comes from this sector?
A: Fifteen to 20 percent of our business comes from incentive and executive retreat groups , with the U.S. as a main source of business.
Q: What's a misconception that many meeting or incentive planners may have about your property or about Thailand in general?
A: Thailand might generate the misconception of being a more “commercial” than luxury destination. However, over the past years, the country is supporting the luxury segment to change the original tourism structure towards a more exclusive dimension. In our case we had the fantastic opportunity to open the first Ritz-Carlton Reserve worldwide in Krabi which is an untouched, authentic, and natural destination right on the shores on the Andaman Sea in a more unspoiled corner of Thailand compared to more “commercial” location such as Phuket or Pattaya. Our property and Krabi in general might have the misconception to being remotely located and difficult to reach. We are actually have easy accessibility from either Krabi or Phuket International Airport, which gives plenty of flight flexibility from global companies with delegated traveling from different countries.
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