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Incentive for WA Travel operators

WA’S growing popularity as a destination for incentive travel is expected to take off in the next two or three years.

Incentive travel is part of the bonus structure of many companies.

Instead of giving their workers financial bonuses, companies give their workers all expenses paid holidays as a reward for reaching targets.

WA is largely an inbound incent-ive tourism destination, especially from Asia.

Most Australian companies cannot afford to give their workers incentive travel bonuses because of the tax liabilities – particularly from Fringe Benefits Tax – they would incur.

Usually, Australian companies can only offer incentive travel to their staff if there is some sort of educational component attached to the trip, such as a conference.

In 1999-2000, the Perth Convention Bureau won $29.04 million worth of incentive tourism business for WA. That was a 28.7 per cent increase on the previous year.

The PCB is on track to exceed the 1999-2000 result this financial year.

Like conference delegates, incent-ive travellers are considered ‘super tourists’.

They are usually high-wealth individuals who have more money to spend while on holiday because most of their expenses, such as airfares and accommodation, have been paid for.

Typically, incentive travellers come into WA in parties of between 60 and 100, but groups of up to 300 people are not unheard of.

However, the recent trend from Asia is for smaller groups of 20 to 30 people, largely due to the economic slowdown in the region.

Despite the financial setbacks, incentive travel is growing from Asia, especially out of Thailand and Malaysia.

A lot of the region’s pyramid companies, such as Tupperware and Amway, are using incentive travel as part of their motivation packages. South Africa is also showing promise.

Australia is a much sought after destination, especially from the UK, Europe and the US, and the declining value of the local currency is only strengthening the appeal.

Those countries have been active members of the incentive travel market for many years and are suffering from the “been there done that” syndrome.

And WA sits high on that appeal because it is a relatively new location. Incentive travel has been strong in the eastern states, leaving the West as the final frontier.

The inbound incentive travel market is strong in Bali – particularly from the UK and Europe. Given that WA is only a three-hour flight from Bali, industry sources believe it will be two or three years at most before that business starts filtering through.

WA is being sold as an experiential destination to incentive travellers, with promotions including activities such as sailing on the Swan River or taking flights down to Margaret River for winemakers’ dinners.

By definition, incentive travel is meant to be an upmarket experience that cannot be bought off the shelf.

Destination Management Serv-ices’ Brian Robeson said the future for incentive travel into WA was looking very positive.

“WA is somewhere new for the incentive travellers and, while it doesn’t have the icons of the east coast, it certainly has the exper-iences,” he said.

“The incentive market in WA hasn’t matured as it has in other countries.”

Mr Robeson’s company focuses on South Africa, the UK and Europe.

He believes the market from those countries is growing and will only get stronger.

Debretts Travel proprietor Denise Monk, whose company also focuses on South Africa and Europe, said tax rules were changing there so a lot of the incentive travel out of those countries was usually run alongside conventions.

Despite that tax change, she feels the incentive market is strong. Europe is proving to be a strong market.

“Incentive travel is a proven way of boosting staff loyalty, produc-tivity and attitude,” Ms Monk said. “Cash incentives don’t work because the tax man takes a large part of it and the bonus can be quickly taken for granted.

“If a person becomes used to receiving a bonus every quarter it just becomes part of their salary. If the person doesn’t meet target for a period and loses the bonus, you suddenly have an unhappy staff member on your hands.”

Besides organising incentive travel for companies, Debretts also sells incentive bonds – articles similar to bearer bonds that can be redeemed for product.

However, the product cannot be food or wine – things that are easily consumed and forgotten about.

Ms Monk said incentives worked best when there was some memory attached to it.

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