In Conversation With Dr. Patrick Patridge, MICE, Tourism Marketing & PR Consultant Past – President SITE Germany Author and Public Speaker

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ES. What motivated you to write “INCENTIVE TRAVEL for a New World”?

Dr. Patrick Patridge. It is early days yet, but readers from eight countries worldwide have already stated that they are delighted that I have written this book. It is one of the first books ever written about Incentive Travel and has been described by SITE – The Society for Incentive Travel Excellence – as an “excellent” and a “must read” book for industry professionals. It has also been recommended by SITE for colleagues studying for their tourism management, CITP, CIS and / or CMP exams.

ES. What kind of response have you been receiving?

Dr. Patrick Patridge. My aim is to offer subjects and themes that may provide readers with food for thought and inspiration for what I have termed: Incentive Travel for a New World. So, imagine that you are starting from “GO” in a game of Monopoly. “GO” marks the border between our worlds pre-Covid and post-Covid. Questions will have to be asked, answers provided, and critical decisions taken. Such as: – What will remain? – What will change? – How will change manifest itself? – How can we re-adapt? – Where should investment occur? – How can we assist one another? Providing practical answers to these and to other questions was my primary motivation. The book serves as a small contribution for collegial discussion, industry debate and as an impetus for optimistic engagement and affirmative thinking.

ES. What are its key highlights?

Dr. Patrick Patridge. The book is a benchmark for where our industry is at, and for where it could be going to. It is a call for discussion and debate. Serving as a contribution to business planning and future-minded Incentive Travel; to programme design and sustainable trip delivery. Its contents include a Preface by SITE President, Aoife Delaney and chapters titled – Quo Vadis Incentive Travel? – The Business Case – Core Trends – Relevant Branches – Corporate Goals – Millennials & Generation Y – Dietary Requirements – Corporate Social Responsibility – Sustainable Incentive Travel – Storytelling – Networking – Trade Fair Etiquette – Digital Detox – Slowing Down – Ethics – Perfect Fam Trips – and Tips for Destinations.

ES. What’s your background in Incentive Travel?

Dr. Patrick Patridge. I have been working in the Incentive Travel sector since 1990 – firstly developing and promoting Ireland as a destination for quality incentive travel and meetings – and since 1998 as a MICE and Tourism Marketing Consultant for a wide variety of international destinations, suppliers, and tour companies seeking a sustainable foothold in the German-speaking and international markets.

ES. Which are some of the most memorable projects you’ve done in your career?

Dr. Patrick Patridge. I was instrumental in achieving for my home country Ireland and for the UK County of Kent strong profiles and key positions in the German business tourism, group travel and leisure tourism markets.

ES. Major milestones achieved so far include:

Dr. Patrick Patridge. Member of the German Castles Association since 1988.

  • SITE Member since 1990.
  • SITE Member since 1990.Past-President SITE Germany.
  • Helping to establish my home city of Dublin as a MICE and group travel destination for the German outbound market.
  • SITE Kevin Forde Spirit Award 2010.Group Travel Editors Award 2013 for promoting Coach Travel to the UK.
  • SITE Jane E. Schuldt Master Motivator Award 2017.

ES. How has the Incentive Travel industry changed in the last 5 to 10 years?

Dr. Patrick Patridge. Incentive Travel programmes pre-Covid (ITII – Incentive Travel Industry Index 2019) were primarily structured around cultural and group dining experiences, team building and luxury. A programme was designed as a win / win for qualifiers who received an exceptional travel experience – and corporate client sponsor, who got a better-connected workforce. When compared with the ITII 2020, however, a new and more purposeful incentive travel model is seen to be emerging. Luxury and cultural experiences remain in the Top 4 rankings, but group dining and team building are replaced by Corporate Social Responsibility and Wellness. The rise of CSR highlights changing priorities post-Covid as corporations continue to favour travel as part of their reward and recognition programmes, placing emphasis on the intrinsic joy of travel and putting qualifiers centre-stage. Building programmes around rejuvenation, destination discovery and delight, interspersed with concepts of responsible travel and giving back to communities. Our immediate task as Incentive Travel specialists is to identify operative, research, tactical and strategic goals in both traditional and future growth sectors, and to devise offerings that will dovetail with, satisfy and complement these.

ES. Can you tell us about some recent Incentive events that you have attended?

Dr. Patrick Patridge. The last events I attended pre-Covid were SITE Germany receptions for SITE members and friends at ITB Berlin and at IMEX Frankfurt. The last incentives I accompanied were trips for Middle Eastern automotive distributors to Frankfurt am Main and a conclave for European medical surgeons in the ancient Roman city of Mainz on the majestic River Rhine.

ES. What would be your key advice to emerging Incentive Travel destinations?

Dr. Patrick Patridge. Excellent trip delivery, friendly and warm hospitality goes without saying. When promoting Incentive Travel, however, it is important for destinations to deliver fully thought-through concepts with transparent and detailed cost breakdowns – the latter considered vital for corporate financial controllers, compliance and procurement departments. In view of tighter and / or shrinking events budgets in many industrial and commercial branches, the primary challenge for destinations and suppliers is to deliver targeted, safe, high-quality, value for money and top-notch proposals with flexible options on moderate budgets. i.e., Incentive Travel that not only satisfies client requirements, but which also generates authentic, memorable, and personalised experiences, and a demand for future activity – whether these are full-scale dealer incentives or corporate meetings and retreats with an “Incentive Travel” touch. Develop an “Incentive Travel Business Case” for why companies and organisations should hold their events in your destination and join SITE (members in some 90 countries worldwide) and study SITE Crystal Award Winner programmes. These are a tremendous source of inspiration and encouragement.

ES. How would you make a layman understand what Incentive Travel is?

Dr. Patrick Patridge. Incentive Travel is a special tool that uses an exceptional travel experience to motivate, recognise and / or reward individuals for exemplary levels of engagement, performance, and achievement in support of either organisational, scientific, climate, environment or societal goals. Incentive Travel in the company of colleagues or customers is a special, complex, and emotional journey. The Incentive Travel story is an inspired narrative that is curated for the mind but felt with the heart. It is not something which can be purchased ready-to-wear from a travel agency. It is either couture – or tailor-made by an Incentive Travel professional.

ES. As former president of SITE Germany, tell us about initiatives taken and accomplishments made during your tenure?

Dr. Patrick Patridge. Establishing an active SITE Chapter in Germany that is some 31 years in existence. Highlights to this day include the SITE European Conference 1994 in Munich and the SITE EMEA Forum 2012 in Berlin, together with our popular SITE Germany networking events and annual receptions at ITB Berlin (since 1994) and at IMEX Frankfurt (since 2004), to which your readers are most welcome to attend.

ES. In your opinion, what makes a good Incentive Travel organiser?

Dr. Patrick Patridge. Content, creativity, understanding of client objectives and goals, and value for money within a set budget per participant are what – at the end of the day – decide for a particular Incentive Travel organiser. Companies and organisations who wish to produce, direct and stage customised Incentive Travel programmes (i.e., unique travel experiences which cannot be bought from a tour operator online or over a travel agent’s counter and which in the main are self-financing) require expert local advice and experienced partners with best-practice ideas, collaborative networking, and trip delivery skills.

ES. What are the key challenges surrounding the MICE industry? What is it that you have learned from the pandemic?

Dr. Patrick Patridge. The Covid crisis and its caesura have had traumatic impacts on the worlds of work and travel. It is imperative, therefore, for all engaged in the MICE industry to carefully consider how we can recuperate, re-connect, re-boot and thrive by becoming active, relevant and prosperous once again. Reviving Incentive Travel by creating purposeful, memorable, and motivating experiences for our unpredictable times. And moving on from there to define anew moments that may still be pivotal for personal, business, CSR and scientific success. And not only for “Traditional Qualifiers” from branches such as Finance & Insurance, Automotive, Pharmaceuticals and Consumer Electronics. But also, for “System-Relevant Beneficiaries” from sectors such as Health Care & Nursing, Food & Retail, Community Care, Public Transport, Logistics, Child-Minding, Schooling & Training, Civil Defence & Emergency Services. And for future, sustainability-oriented sectors such as biomedicine, life sciences, mechanical engineering, cybersecurity, mobility, energy, and aerospace. Generating emotional experiences that rise above post-Covid routines, making trip participants feel included, recognised, rewarded, happy and healthy once again. Corona Virus – together with Climate Crisis – in the words of Irish Nobel Prize-winning poet, William Butler Yeats, means that: “All changed, changed utterly: A terrible beauty is born.”

ES. Some current trends in Incentive Travel?

Dr. Patrick Patridge. Trends that remain relevant to all involved in our industry include:

  • Planners still wish to be kept informed about changes, future planning and destination developments post-Covid.
  • Reliable and speedy air access with MICE terms and conditions from key international airports will remain essential due to shorter programme duration and increased time constraints.
  • Tips for “hip” and “unusual” venues, affordable hotels with a personal touch (health and compliance regulations), and “in” pubs and restaurants to highlight the “attractiveness”, “uniqueness” and “saleability” of an Incentive Travel destination.
  • Fiscally compliant events, individual travel experiences and vocational training are increasingly in demand.
  • Immersive sightseeing, shopping, culture, music festivals and iconic sporting events will remain popular, paired with visits to technical facilities, factory production units and university research departments.
  • Topped off by informal get-togethers in suitably themed settings where, e.g., researchers, developers, distributors, and sales forces come together to talk shop.
  • Individual and small group incentives closer to qualifiers’ homes in the interim that feature wellness, outdoor activities and include partners and family members. These will kick-start our industry before it returns to more complex, and larger-scale international group travel events.

ES. What are your projections for 2021 and ahead?

Dr. Patrick Patridge. Incentive Travel is a global management tool that can assist post-Covid, because it is a tried-and-trusted catalyst that uses exceptional travel experiences as a context to engage, motivate and/or recognise people for increased levels of personal commitment and extraordinary performance and achievement – irrespective of whatever they do or wherever they work. Whether they be traditional “Qualifiers” or system-relevant “Beneficiaries”. Incentive Travel is a fascinating instrument that may also be employed to tackle many scientific, economic, organisational, health, climate and ecological challenges – given expert planning, an ethical approach, clear communications, professional organisation, and memorable trip delivery. Indeed, Incentive Travel has proven over the past half-century that it can quite imaginatively and robustly adapt to changing circumstances and expanding global geographies. The Incentive Travel sector will remain a significant vehicle for both live and hybrid events post-Covid because it remains one of the most cost-effective, successful, and enjoyable options for inspiring and connecting people from all over the world. Changes only happen when we ourselves drive them onwards. So, let’s get our personal and collective thinking caps on, and move forward with confidence and certainty, remembering always that we are not alone.

ES. Tell us about any upcoming book that you are planning to write?

Dr. Patrick Patridge. I plan to write a new book about “Marketing Communication and Presentation Skills” – an exciting journey through the fascinating worlds of contemporary corporate and personal communications.

ES. We know you love writing. What are your other interests?

Dr. Patrick Patridge. History, Geography, Archaeology, Medieval Castles, Photography, Hillwalking, Current Affairs, Literature, Cooking and Travel.