Conferences and incentives jeopardised by ‘the hordes’ and there’s no easy solution

FOR PCOs and association meeting planners, a high-demand leisure destination is something of a dichotomy - it might appeal to participants because of its popularity, but there is a downside to holding an event in the middle of a tidal wave of tourists.

Fortunately, incentives organisers have the flexibility and dollar-power to build programs that capitalise on a destination's popularity, but also to use exclusive retreats or resorts there to ensure a unique experience.

There also are capacity/pricing issues. Will sufficient hotel rooms be available?  And will the operators make them available at reasonable rates, given the demand by tourists?

Transport also can be a problem, though perhaps to a lesser extent. Some of the 'hordes' will be travelling on low cost carriers that are not a C&I priority. But load management on mainline carriers can mean even premium seats are sometimes hard to source.

And then there's the experience on the ground: Getting through airports, transfers in grid-locked traffic, too many shoppers to make anyone happy, scenic highlights hampered by selfie-snapping thousands.

A few months back, the mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau, called time on the problem.  Her city hosted 32 million visitors in 2016 and many residents now fear for their community's wellbeing.

Colau has devised a policy that envisages a ban on licences for new tourist accommodation, increased property taxes on vacation apartments, higher day-tripper charges, tougher parking arrangements and even a crack-down on Segways and electric scooters in prime tourism areas.

Local acceptance has been divided: Those outside the visitor sector are happy, but hotel and retail groups have accused the mayor of trying to demonise tourism.

Closer to home, NZ's Queenstown also is under pressure from booming tourism, including a lot of MICE traffic.  Recently, high-profile Sydney radio presenter Murray Olds talked - across the media spectrum on line, in print and on air - about a family trip heíd just made.  After a 'trek of a lifetime' on the Routeburn Track, his experience in Queenstown ('a tiny town that can arguably lay claim to being the adventure capital of world tourism') was not a totally happy one.

Queenstown, he claimed, "is being loved to death, a soaring popularity completely overwhelming the existing infrastructure while local and national authorities play catch-up as they try to deliver upgrades to roads and other services to meet the booming demand".

It's a problem our sector has to confront.  I fear it won't be easy

- Kelvin King.

Conferences and incentives jeopardised by ‘the hordes’ and there’s no easy solution

FOR PCOs and association meeting planners, a high-demand leisure destination is something of a dichotomy - it might appeal to participants because of its popularity, but there is a downside to holding an event in the middle of a tidal wave of tourists.

Fortunately, incentives organisers have the flexibility and dollar-power to build programs that capitalise on a destination's popularity, but also to use exclusive retreats or resorts there to ensure a unique experience.

There also are capacity/pricing issues. Will sufficient hotel rooms be available?  And will the operators make them available at reasonable rates, given the demand by tourists?

Transport also can be a problem, though perhaps to a lesser extent. Some of the 'hordes' will be travelling on low cost carriers that are not a C&I priority. But load management on mainline carriers can mean even premium seats are sometimes hard to source.

And then there's the experience on the ground: Getting through airports, transfers in grid-locked traffic, too many shoppers to make anyone happy, scenic highlights hampered by selfie-snapping thousands.

A few months back, the mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau, called time on the problem.  Her city hosted 32 million visitors in 2016 and many residents now fear for their community's wellbeing.

Colau has devised a policy that envisages a ban on licences for new tourist accommodation, increased property taxes on vacation apartments, higher day-tripper charges, tougher parking arrangements and even a crack-down on Segways and electric scooters in prime tourism areas.

Local acceptance has been divided: Those outside the visitor sector are happy, but hotel and retail groups have accused the mayor of trying to demonise tourism.

Closer to home, NZ's Queenstown also is under pressure from booming tourism, including a lot of MICE traffic.  Recently, high-profile Sydney radio presenter Murray Olds talked - across the media spectrum on line, in print and on air - about a family trip heíd just made.  After a 'trek of a lifetime' on the Routeburn Track, his experience in Queenstown ('a tiny town that can arguably lay claim to being the adventure capital of world tourism') was not a totally happy one.

Queenstown, he claimed, "is being loved to death, a soaring popularity completely overwhelming the existing infrastructure while local and national authorities play catch-up as they try to deliver upgrades to roads and other services to meet the booming demand".

It's a problem our sector has to confront.  I fear it won't be easy

- Kelvin King.