As the tragic news of the implosion of the submersible craft Titan swept the web, many viral accusations hit the airways essentially faulting a culture that heralds billionaires going on dangerous and thrill-seeking trips.

Ever since incentives began there has also been a thrill-seeking, adventure-driven component to them. From extreme team building to incentive trips in far-flung destinations with adventure components, risk-taking incentive travelers are not an unknown commodity in the MICE industry.

Smart Meetings asked Dr. Arun Upneja,  Dean of the School of Hospitality Administration (SHA) at Boston University, if the push toward more extreme experiences is being felt in incentive travel, where the goal is to provide singular and high-end experiences for corporate stakeholders and sales staff.

Upneja said in general, ”Despite the tragic nature of the accident, there has been an increase in extreme experiences over the past few decades and the trend is accelerating. The rise of social media influencers and a dramatic increase in the wealth level of individuals are going to continue to increase interest in extreme tourism.”

However, this doesn’t mean the trend is influencing and changing the incentive market.

“I really doubt that extreme experiences are going to permeate the incentive travel for corporate stakeholders and sales staff. All firms are very cautious in exposing their employees to any kind of danger. The liability is just too much,” he said.

His advice to incentive planners faced with queries on extreme adventures: “Know your customers and their capabilities, work with well-known tour operators and go with well-established activities, know the regulatory requirements in both the origin and destination of the corporate group you are working with and finally, use common sense.”

Read More: Incentive Meeting Trends from SITE 2023

NYU Conference Finds “Human Touch” Balancing AI Innovation

Results presented at the 45th Annual NYU International Hospitality Industry Investment Conference on the current state of digital transformation and technology innovation in hospitality were released to the press and public today.

“All brands, owners, and operators have the same ultimate goal when embarking on digital transformation: satisfy investors while also meeting—ideally, exceeding—guest expectations,” said Vanja Bogicevic, clinical assistant professor and director of the HI Hub at the NYU SPS Jonathan M. Tisch Center of Hospitality, and a NYU SPS Tisch Center report contributor, in a release. “Hospitality stakeholders who we spoke with also agree that delivering the right technology at the right price and the right time will engender guest loyalty over the long term. And, now is an ideal time to make further strategic investments in human-powered, tech-enabled experiences.”

In interviews and focus groups with major hotel brand executives, operators and owners, as well as technology vendors, the NYU SPS Tisch Center research team found:

  • Automation across the hotel ecosystem is driving efficiency by minimizing routine data collection and entry, freeing up back-office employees to focus on real-time data analysis and reporting, insights generation and decision-making.
  • Standardized integration approaches and interoperability capabilities are helping the entire industry transform property management systems from the legacy client-server model to a cloud-enabled, API-powered (application program interface) architecture.
  • To unleash the power of data analytics, brands and owners need quality data, talent, and a data-driven culture emphasizing insight generation over data reporting. Leading data analytics opportunities include business intelligence (BI) and smart revenue management systems that ingest market data to aid decision-making.
  • Even as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are helping democratize insights and innovation across hospitality, the industry is fundamentally about serving people, brands are combining the best of technology innovation with a human touch to create a personalized, seamless guest experience—one that fosters loyalty and deepens the human connection.
  • While technology investments have proven to boost profitability and deepen brand loyalty, recent brand and owner/operator partnerships have highlighted divergent investment goals. While brands prioritize technology upgrades that drive guest loyalty, owners and operators typically focus on investments that lead to revenue lift.

Source: NYU SPS Jonathan M. Tisch Center of Hospitality

United Launches App for Travel Disruptions

United App
United Airlines App

United Airlines has announced a new mobile app feature that may help customers save time and reduce stress if travel plans are disrupted. The airline’s new self-service tool automatically presents travelers personalized re-booking options, bag tracking information and meal and hotel vouchers when eligible if their flight is delayed or canceled.

United said it had the lowest mainline flight and seat cancellation rates of any airline in the country during the first three months of the year, but still has the most flights impacted by weather given the location of its major domestic hubs.

According to the airline, nearly 50% of its customers already turn to the app or to self-serve during disruptions, so United began beta testing the new feature at the end of last year. United found that customers responded well to having alternate travel options automatically served to them in the app and that airport employees appreciated reducing the number of people physically waiting in line.

When a flight is delayed by more than 60 minutes or canceled, customers will automatically see options for delays and cancellations on the home screen of the United mobile app:

  • Get notified: Click the link in the automatic text notification or enter flight details in the mobile app or to open the tool. For customers who have their reservation already loaded in the app, they’ll see a prompt right on the home screen.
  • Check flight and re-booking status: Confirm the status of your flight and see if you’ve been re-booked. Customers also have the option to look at other flight options and book based on their preference.
  • Track your bags: Follow the status of your checked luggage to see when it is checked-in, loaded on your flight and received at your final destination.
  • View eligible vouchers: Receive hotel, meal and/or rideshare vouchers if eligible.
  • Connect to a United customer service agent virtually: Call, text or video chat with one of hundreds of United agents who can offer the same assistance as the agents at the airport.

For those without the United mobile app, the self-service tool is accessible on a mobile device or computer at, and customers still have the option to connect in-person with a customer service agent.

Jamaica Reports Boom in Tourism

In a release today, the Jamaica Tourism Board said that 3.3 million visitor arrivals in 2022 constituted a 117% increase over 2021 arrivals. Gross foreign exchange earnings for the year totaled over USD $3.6 billion, representing a 71.4% increase as compared to 2021 and on par with 2019 levels.

“The fact that Jamaica continues to outpace visitor arrivals and earnings projections is a testament to the resilience and unwavering appeal of the island’s tourism product as well as the excellent relationships we enjoy with our travel industry partners,” said the Hon. Edmund Bartlett, Jamaica’s minister of tourism, in the release. “Monthly stopover arrivals began to surpass 2019 figures as of June 2022 and it is expected that 2023 will show a full recovery in our annual figures, ahead of previous estimates that full recovery would occur in 2024.”

“Before even completing the first six months of this year, we have already received 2 million visitors from our stopover and cruise arrivals. This translates into record earnings of US $2 billion, a whopping 18% above the 2019 earnings for the same time period. It should be no surprise then that Jamaica is bracing for the best summer tourist season ever,” Bartlett added.

For the full year 2023, it is expected that Jamaica will show a full recovery in its annual figures with projections of 3.9 million visitors and foreign exchange earnings of USD $4.3 billion, ahead of previous estimates for full recovery in 2024.

Looking ahead to summer 2023, the agency said that bookings to Jamaica show a 33% increase over the same period in 2019 per ForwardKeys Air Ticket Data as of April 5, putting the destination on track for a “record-breaking summer season.” For the upcoming summer travel season, the U.S. represents 1.2 million of the 1.4 million airline seats that have been secured for the period, representing a 16% increase over the island’s previous best, recorded in 2019.

Source: Jamaica Tourism Board