A short while back David Battley, director of events, highlighted some implications for the European incentive travel market driven by the investments being made in the Middle East by the carriers and countries. Concluding that many destinations, such as the Seychelles and Mauritius, are now a much more attractive proposition for reasons of ease of access and customer travel experience, I decided to test this out.
The Travel Experience Can Make or Break Incentive Travel
I was off for a short-break to the Seychelles, and with my incentive travel head on the guys asked me to assess the new Emirates facilities at Birmingham, the flight and transit experience through Dubai, and my overall impression of the experience compared to other options. Given that Emirates has spent a fortune on their ‘exceed customer expectations’ philosophy I had high expectations indeed!
Flying from Birmingham International was ideal for me given location to home and that it is stress free – in and out with little aggravation, which appeals. Knowing that Emirates operate two flights a day to Dubai, which I think is an important consideration for group travel, presents no restrictions on connections to possible destinations. I arrived at Birmingham International and was very quickly delighted. Delighted by the private feel of the Emirates check-in area, there was plenty of space, and staff who were extremely helpful, without being intrusive. I was even more delighted to find the flight was very busy so I was upgraded to business class, it made the mission even more interesting (and enjoyable!).
Check-in was swift and totally painless and I was soon to be found in the new, and I must say, extremely smart lounge. There was an enormous range of every conceivable drink, the hot and cold food was perfect for the setting, and was checked and replenished frequently, and the nibbles were fabulous. Aside from the environment, the experience continued on from check-in, I really could not have asked for more. I was greeted and kept up to speed personally on the flight and departure information. All making for a very relaxing and calm experience. The flight itself was aboard what must be a very new (‘ish) 777, and I felt like I was the first to experience the flat-bed style seats. I settled in with my champagne, and looked forward to the seven hours or so to Dubai. Food was as you would expect, first rate, and a small incidental was the use of Royal Doulton, a nice connection to the midlands.
On my travels I have had many transit experiences and most can be summed up as tiresome. You accept it as an inevitable part of the experience. The Dubai experience can be summed up as “easy”. It was seamless, helped by the fact that boarding cards for the Seychelles flights were issued in Birmingham, and every element was clear, clean and well thought through, I was particularly struck by the quality of the signposting. I had two hours or so, which was plenty of time to relax, take in the enormous Emirates lounge, and enjoy a drink, more food and catch up with a good read of the London Evening Standard, and Grazia. There is a spa, however, my flight experience was so good I didn’t feel the need to indulge, maybe if I had a lesser experience and longer flight I may have done.
And off to the Seychelles for a fabulous break. The flight of around four hours seemed to go in a flash and before I knew it I had got my luggage, was checked-in at the hotel and had my G&T in hand.
The Incentive Travel Experience Starts Before Take-Off
In summary I felt the transition from the English summer to the Seychelles pool started the moment I entered the Emirates area at Birmingham. It was enjoyable and any stress or aggro factor was totally absent. Personally, I prefer to break a flight (more so if I fly economy) and stretch my legs if I am going long-haul, and the seven-two-four hour experience was perfect, even more so when the Emirates customer, flight and transit experience is factored in. I can’t imagine a more relaxing and enjoyable way of getting to these exotic destinations. Would it work for incentive travel groups? Absolutely, and with so many Emirates flights to Dubai from the UK and Europe, then many more incentive destination options are, as David suggests, opened up, and arguably in a far more pleasant manner.