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Outbound Business Travel as an Extension of Business Strategy in the GCC

For decades now, companies have utilized the practice of outbound training which has included the hosting of incentive activities and events to build employee rapport, teamwork, and communicate company strategies and missions, while present in an enjoyable environment. Outbound business travel is fast becoming a core part of the outbound training, development programmes and incentives, especially for organizations in the GCC, as it was suggested by many speakers at the recently concluded MICE Arabia Congress 2016.



Organized by QnA International, the 4thedition of the MICE Arabia Congress, focused on outbound business and luxury travel from the GCC. Panel discussions and keynote speeches by prominent individuals in the travel, hospitality, and in the procurement and organization of travel and events from multiple industries shared insights on the entirety of the MICE and luxury travel industry.  



Speaking about developments in the MICE industry, Mr. Karthik Ramamurthy, Head—Africa, India and Middle East at Ipsos Business Consulting noted that, “While business travel has been the norm for organizations across the globe, organizations with regional, global, and factory headquarters are adding a new dimension to outbound business travel by creating on-the-job learning programmes through industry immersion programmes. The travel is sponsored by the brand as an incentive for the franchisee employees to visit the headquarters. This helps in the development of indigenous talent from the GCC.”



“As companies in the GCC become progressively trans-national and some regional headquarters take up base in the region, business trips for employees and partners are planned to provide a glimpse of new cultures and an opportunity to learn nuances of doing business. In the context of multi-cultural teams, companies look at MICE as an opportunity to strengthen and build the team bonding amongst the employees and as a tool to increase the sense of belonging,” continued Mr. Ramamurthy.



Panellists and keynote presenters at the Congress seemed to suggest that Europe is still the most popular outbound destination for business travellers from the GCC. However, there was consensus too, that Asia, including Hong Kong and China have gained prominence for business travel in recent times.



A common issue faced by many companies in the GCC is the obtaining of visas and ensuring halal food is easily available at the chosen destinations. As teams in the region are composed of different nationalities, securing visas for all those intended for travel is sometimes a challenge.



Speaking from a travel management company’s (TMC) perspective, Mr. Daniel Ponzo, GM, Al Rostamani Travel & Holidays said, “Availability of venues, meeting customer event cost expectations, last minute operational modifications and providing the technological interfaces, such as apps, so that business travellers can follow their trip and interact with the travel company directly from their very own devices, such as a smartphone or tablet,” are some of the more challenging yet necessary services that TMCs should provide.



The current economic environment did not escape speakers at the Congress, most of whom said business travel from companies is heavily weighed against the economic environment before decisions are reached.  A senior representative from a leading insurance company stated that “While business travel is necessary, it needs to be financially sound while simultaneously exciting and interesting. As such, it is necessary for suppliers to be creative and work with the company to design or conceptualise events.”



“The two-day Congress imparted knowledge on some surprising and interesting developments in outbound business travel from the GCC. It was great to see that the participants engaged in a frank exchange of ideas and thoughts related to the trends, challenges and new developments in the industry. This year’s Congress ended on a good note with close to about 1,500 one-on-one meetings, and about 300 attendees,” noted Mr. Sidh N.C, Director, QnA International.

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