When Indian pharmaceutical giant Lupin decided on Northern Cyprus for its biggest ever incentive trip, it required six Atlas Global aircraft charters to fly in the 1450 participants in three back-to-back groups because of the shortage of scheduled flights. Add to that the need for 30 Indian chefs to be flown in to cater for the participants and you begin to understand the complexity of Lupin’s massive incentive.
If all that weren’t enough, organisers iCon Planners also had to stage three gala dinners with award ceremonies with only four months lead time to plan and execute it.
Lupin is a multinational pharmaceutical company with sales in over 100 countries, the third largest pharmaceutical company in India by revenue and the sixth largest in the USA by prescription. Not only did the best Star Club Members of the company have the opportunity to explore various attractions of the exotic island, but also attended an awards ceremony with families which was presided over by the Minister of Tourism of The Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC). The Star Club of Lupin Pharma employees comprises high performers who have exceeded their sales targets by a good margin. This was an earned incentive programme. It was an incentive movement meant to motivate the sales and marketing team for a better performance in the upcoming year.
The biggest challenge was the flights, as only one direct flight was available and it could accommodate only 120 people. For the rest, the planners had to hire six charter flights that could carry the group. Indian food was not available at the destination so a team of 30 Indian chefs were flown from India “who did an amazing job”. So people had the wide choice of complete Indian as well as international cuisine.
For Lupin Pharma, the trip was successful beyond measure. Their spokesperson affirmed that the destination held great charm as it is exclusive and thus far unexplored by Indians. Secondly, the hotel and the government of TRNC were extremely proactive. The attendees were so highly motivated that it has reflected in increased sales already.
Talking about the destination, Sunaina Chatterjee, director of iCon Planners, said: “For Indians, TRNC is a virgin destination and this is the first time an Indian movement has happened to this place to the tune of around 1450 people, who travelled in three separate groups. As there is no direct connectivity from India to TRNC, six charter flights of Atlas Global, a Turkish carrier, were flown to the destination while the rest flew Turkish Airlines.”
Unlike other incentive trips, Chatterjee said they had created a mobile application for this trip. “With this app, people could check their itineraries group-wise as we had multiple groups. Not only does the app keeps travellers updated but also informs them of every change, allows them to post pictures and comments, and interact with colleagues,” she said.
Since iCon Planners is the first company to put TRNC on the map for Indian corporates, it might pave the way for MICE agents and the travel industry to look at the destination with renewed interest.
Everyone was accommodated at Elexus Hotel & Resort & Spa after arrival in Ercan with their respective flights from Delhi and Mumbai, via Istanbul. After check-in, leisure time was allowed at the hotel followed by dinner at the hotel. On day two, after breakfast at the hotel the group was taken on a half-day Nicosia tour including the Kyrenia Gate with shopping and a Kyrenia boat tour with a DJ providing the entertainment. This was followed by a night of music and entertainment on Mia Beach.
On day three, after breakfast at the hotel, the group was first taken on a half-day Saint Hilerion Castle and Bellapais Monastery and village tour. After lunch in a local restaurant, the group to Girne Harbor and Shipwreck Museum Tour. This was followed by a gala dinner.
On day three, after breakfast at the hotel, the group was allowed free time to visit the Water Park at the hotel. In the afternoon, the group checked out and were transported to the airport for their respective flights back to India.
According to Vikrant Gulani, director of iCon Planners, the biggest advantage of the destination is the ‘no-visa’ policy. “All you need is to book your tickets, get an entry stamp on your passport and visit a European, Mediterranean location without going through the hassle of any paperwork. This works perfectly for first-time travellers as well as for all those who are travelling in big numbers. Another add-on is a property like Elexus Hotel & Resort & Spa, which not only offers great stay but also an option of ultra-board including mini bars, unlimited liquor, all meals, evening and midnight snacks,” explained Gulani.
Elaborating further about the challenges in getting charters done for such a group, Gulani said: “It is advisable to get 220 people to travel together in one go instead of putting them on a commercial airline and then giving separate transfers for everyone, which would further incur cost. On the other hand, a seasoned traveller would prefer a commercial flight for comfort and the benefits vis-a-vis a first-time traveller who would feel better going in a group.”
Even for the local DMC Cyprus Global, it was a different experience to have Indian guests as people in Cyprus are unaware of the Indian culture and its clientele. But the local government helped as this was the first Indian group that landed at North Cyprus so they had held a big press conference as well as making welcome announcements during one of the gala dinners.