Whelan: flight access is crucial
A SNAP poll conducted among 16 buyers and sellers who attended the ASEAN Tourism Forum (ATF) in Manado revealed that this year’s edition was a logistical nightmare for the majority, although they were fairly positive about the business outcomes.
Flight accessibility was cited repeatedly as the biggest gripe, with respondents pointing out that ample seat capacity into the destination should have been a requirement of being a host city.
Gilbert Whelan, president, ATM Travel Marketing, said he took 31.5 hours to get from San Francisco to Manado, and he could only leave two days after the conference ended due to limited and expensive flights.
Christoph Mueller, managing director, Go Vacation Thailand, suggested that host committees should “always stick to main tourist destinations or capitals with sufficient flight accessibility and international hotels”.
Official bus transfers within Manado proved to be another excruciating experience, as buses were often late and overcrowded or were no-shows.
Roman Davydov, director of Ukraine-based Advanced Executive, said frequent changes in venues should have been minimised, especially when “proper and air-conditioned transfers” were unavailable. “People come to the show to work and not to ride in the bus,” he said.
Added UK-based Andrea Loddo, lead regional product manager, Far East, Africa, Indian Ocean and South America, Hayes & Javis/Thomson Tailormade: “I didn’t attend the evening functions due to the difficulty of getting a taxi and the distance from my hotel (to the event venues). On top of it, my hotel was of two-star-plus standards and had dirty and noisy rooms.”
Hotels received their fair share of complaints as well. Two buyers said the quality of accommodation did not correspond to the star-rating advertised, while one seller said hotels used the opportunity to jack up their prices, with delegates paying five times the usual room rates.
“It seems that this region (in Indonesia) isn’t ready for MICE tourism. Hotels, food, transfers and knowledge of an international language needs to be improved first,” said Karl Hellgren, managing director of Belgium-based Business Events Incentives.
Several also felt that Manado could have been offered as a post-tour option instead, making it easier to travel to the city via domestic connections.
On a brighter note, most buyers were pleased with their business meetings.
“It is always good to meet all our resort partners in one place to exchange the latest news and develop new ideas,” said Germany-based Meier’s Weltreisen supervisor, product management team, Asia, Nicole Dieckmann.
Zuzana Simek, destination manager of Bono Travel Centre in Hungary, added that travel trade shows should continue to be held in secondary cities as “buyers can discover a new destination” and the “destination can earn income and learn a lot from organising the event”.