With two decades of experience as the founder of Eventful, a global venue sourcing and event management agency, Caroline Lumgair Wiseman is a respected leader in the incentives and events industry.
Eventful Limited was acquired by Aeorema Communications Plc in early 2020 and Caroline remains as managing director of the agency which now offers a broader spectrum of strategic communications and event solutions in collaboration with sister agency Cheerful Twentyfirst.
How long have you been involved with SITE GB and what’s your role on the board?
I have served on the board for four years. I joined as Director of Membership tasked to increase awareness and membership of the association in the UK.
We do not currently have specific roles – the board is a group of business owners and senior industry leaders who work collaboratively, taking turns to lead and support on different projects, depending on each person’s availability. As with most associations, a board position is a voluntary role, and we greatly respect each other’s time and contribution.
What do you get out of being involved with SITE?
I gain valuable industry insight through collaboration with industry peers; fellow agents as well as partners such as hoteliers and DMCs. The composition of the group provides a well-rounded view of the industry that helps us to shape content for our members.
Which SITE event are you most proud of?
I am proud that my board colleagues at SITE GB unanimously agreed to host an event focusing on mental wellness during the pandemic. Given the events of the past fifteen months, I feel that is has become increasingly important for people to share their feelings and to also promote general awareness around mental health. The response to the event was overwhelmingly positive due to the openness and honesty of our guest panel. Several attendees shared that they found it helpful to hear that others in the industry had felt vulnerable and worried during the pandemic, and that they were not isolated in the struggles they have experienced.
Last year, you launched a new domestic incentive offering, Eventful Experiences. Tell us more…
Like many sectors, we had to both adapt to the ever-changing situation and invent solutions that address the understandable concerns around the safety of international group travel. We believe that independent incentive travel rewards offer an exciting alternative to group incentives, providing clients with the opportunity to reward participants with personalised experiences that can be enjoyed individually or with those closest to them – partners, family members, friends or even colleagues – all subject to government guidelines of course.
We curated a collection of luxury hotel experiences across many of the leading hotels in the UK which are exclusive to Eventful, and they are available to purchase as gift certificates to reward top achievers, in place of group incentives and rewards. This is an immediate solution for businesses concerned about committing to international group travel.
What does travel offer that other incentive rewards don’t?
In order for something to feel like a reward it is imperative that we have identified the key objectives of our client in conjunction with an understanding of who the reward recipients are. This allows an incentive travel programme to be created that is both bespoke and unique to that company and the individuals. What incentive travel offers is an opportunity to create a memorable travel experience that will both engage and inspire colleagues beyond that actual trip.
The networking opportunities both between colleagues and with senior leadership within a unique environment is not replicated with any other rewards. It is also a reward that offers opportunity for meaningful measurement in terms of the return on investment and objectives.
What do you think incentive trips will look like post-COVID? Will they go back to the way they were?
According to the Incentive Industry Travel Index (SITE Foundation/Incentive Research Foundation), there will more of a focus on wellness, choice and personalisation of programmes alongside the on-going focus on safety and Covid protocols.
A focus for us right now is to determine key motivators for incentive participants as factors influencing motivation and inspiration will have changed over the pandemic period. It would appear that people have developed a more profound appreciation of the simple things in life and as a result of this I feel that programmes will be focused on more authentic experiences (which is the direction that things were already moving in pre-Covid), with participants focusing on curating meaningful moments which can then be shared across social media. Simply being able to travel freely again, and the experience of being immersed in a different location and culture is going to feel like a luxury after such a long period of restricted movement.
I believe that the travel industry will thrive once again. This forced pause will lead to more considered travel as it has provided time for people to reflect on the journeys they wish to take – and where they truly yearn to go. This difficult period has resulted in some good in that it has provided us with an opportunity for travel to become more inspirational than ever.
How can agencies help rebuild client confidence in returning to live events and incentives?
We are witnessing an increase in venue enquiries from clients keen to return to holding live meetings and events. Reassuringly, many hotels and venues are offering flexibility in their terms and conditions as we move into a post-pandemic environment, which should encourage clients to start planning with greater confidence and less fear of the financial implications.
What other challenges do you foresee in the move back to live events?
Pent-up demand, coupled with a year of event postponements, has already resulted in availability challenges and this will escalate. Clients planning an event within the next 12-18 months may wish to consider moving forward swiftly to ensure a good choice of venues and destinations.
While we envisage a long road ahead, we could be pleasantly surprised by the speed in which the market recovers as it gathers momentum. We are advising clients on their strategic events programming and encouraging a long-term approach due to the predicted challenges.
Describe your dream incentive…
In the UK, it would be a trip on the Belmond Royal Scotsman to experience the breath-taking beauty of the Scottish Highlands.
Longer term, once we get back to long haul travel, I would love to take a group on safari in the Africa. I am somewhat biased as I grew up in South Africa, but I believe that nothing beats the sights and sounds of Africa, and the impressive enormity of the African sky. When I was younger, the slogan for the South Africa Tourism Board was “A World in One Country”, and with the many cultures and landscapes that constitute South Africa, that couldn’t be truer.
If you could get on a plane right now, where would you go and why?
I would go to France as my parents moved there last summer after we emerged from the first lockdown. – my two-year-old daughter Olive really misses her grandma and grandpa, as do I.