There is no doubt that of all the segments of the Meetings Industry, incentive travel is the most affected. We interviewed Sidney Alonso, President 2021 of SITE (Society for Incentive Travel Excellence) South America Chapter, about this issue.
Sidney has been in the tourism industry for more than 34 years, 16 of which have been linked to MICE, and is considered a highly authoritative voice on the subject. He is originally from Sao Paulo, Brazil, where he founded and currently presides over Avant Garde, a company representing DMCs with services in several countries.
“To be involved nowadays in an association for specialized professionals represents a tremendous task; we are living in difficult times from which we will emerge stronger if we share our knowledge,” was his first statement.
The South American chapter of SITE has 80 members who are highly participative in supporting their community. SITE has 29 chapters globally with around 2,300 members.
How do you generate engagement in incentive travel?
“First, we have to educate young professionals who are just joining the industry. We believe education is critical to the future of our business,” Sidney noted.
He also mentioned the adaptation of services and processes that offer more safety and healthy handling, so groups feel confident when traveling.
The third point he mentioned deals directly with communication and relationships with governments and authorities to impress upon them the importance of incentive travel in the communities and its positive economic impact. According to Alonso, this last point is the most complicated.
Incentive travel will be back in high demand
A little more than a year into the pandemic, in which virtually all industries ground to a halt, Sidney believes that a return to some normalcy for incentive travel could be about two and a half years away.
“[The pandemic] has been horrible so far, a lot of destinations are still closed. We have to keep going, be patient, it’s a process where we have to make sure we’re ready when the time is right,” said the SITE South America Chapter President.
“The advantage with incentives is that once they are reactivated, you can make up for lost time: there were projects paid for in 2020, but they were not suspended, they were postponed, and when they come back, the concern is that there will be more demand than before,” he said.
Faced with this potential “onslaught” of incentive trips, it will be necessary to deal with longer flights and a reduced number of rooms in hotels, as well as other adjustments that this industry, which generates the most jobs in the world, will have to make.
In the meantime, they have been conducting certifications and seminars to continue with their training. “We don’t want our people to feel abandoned in such difficult times.”
South America and its natural wellness
“Latin America has some of the most beautiful beaches, a tremendous amount of natural resources, excellent food, welcoming people, and biodiversity in all its forms. This scenario is the right place for incentives, and it certainly goes hand in hand with wellness. What you find here you won’t find anywhere else in the world,” said Sidney Alonso.
He added that people who live in Latin America are happier by nature. They are people who never stop working and know that change is in themselves. “We have to be, as we say here, eclectic.”
Who is Sidney Alonso?
“Outside of work, I’m the father of 13-year-old twins, I’m a bad tennis player, a normal person, I’m very dedicated to my work, which I love, and to sharing culture,” he said in closing.
Interestingly, Sidney was an electronic music DJ in his youth, and until a few years ago, he was still mixing it on the turntables. He is also an oenophile (wine lover), which he uses as an excuse to travel more.