Business and Incentive Travel: Mind Your Manners


Today it’s time to tackle a tough issue related to planning incentive travel, business meetings, team building retreats, and corporate events in foreign countries.

Often, when one thinks of business etiquette, local dress codes, dining and protocol come to mind. Some hotels offer this information on their websites and through their concierges. Unfortunately, some groups haven’t even mastered the basics.

Inappropriate behaviour is not limited to the corporate sector. Headlines about the drunken RIM executives who were restrained on an Air Canada flight and members of the US Security Service detail who were cavorting with prostitutes in Columbia have swept traditional and social media.

Due to complaints from leisure guests about the inappropriate behaviour of some corporate groups, some luxury resorts are declining the opportunity to submit proposals for group accommodation without a full buy-out the property.

Who can blame them? The reason that some properties have had no option but to take this step is that, when groups are away from the office at a foreign destination, there is a tendency to feel that it’s okay to just “let it all hang out”.

I have seen or heard of guests at foreign corporate events:

  • being rude and demanding when interacting with staff
  • disturbing other guests by being rowdy in the dining area or in the middle of the night
  • spitting
  • chewing tobacco
  • skinny dipping in the pool
  • relieving themselves in flower beds
  • groping female staff at dinner (and these were executives)
  • being drunk and disorderly on flights or at luxury resorts

Scenario 1: I was once a leisure guest at a luxury Caribbean resort. At about 11 AM, there was a ruckus at one of the bars. Two security guards were seen escorting a drunken guest with his hands tied behind his back to his room. I was shocked. When they returned I spoke to one of the security guards and he told me that this happened every day.

All-inclusive doesn’t mean drinking to the point of being obnoxious.

Scenario 2: A young executive team stayed at an exclusive retreat in Europe. The number of changes the group made never stopped. It was very hard on the staff. After dinner the liquor kept flowing. A few of the executives started chewing tobacco. Another one went outside and mooned his colleagues through the window. Fortunately, it was a buy-out so no other guests were disturbed but the staff was shocked.

There really should be no need for this. After all, while the chances of running into an important client or prospect are minimal, you never know.

Consider these recent comments on Tripadvisor.

Corporate retreats have ruined my favorite destination”

For the next one, I have edited the title to remove content that is not politically correct.

Beware of Corporate Events & Rowdy Behavior

My husband and I returned from 11 day stay at ______ …. and were disappointed overall. . The problem was mostly with the corporate events held at the resort. Second week event was ________ from ________ very loud, obnoxious, pounding back the booze….Overall, the corporate events ruined the whole vibe of the trip for us and we won’t go back for that reason.”

(I have removed the company name and locations from the quotes but they were included in the Trip advisor review.)

When it’s a company event, all negative behavior has the potential to erode brand equity. With social media, news of inappropriate behavior can spread fast.

In the UK, Microsoft has issued a stringent code of conduct after a highly publicized lawsuit alleging sexual harassment by executives as the result of heavy drinking at corporate events.

Perhaps the time has come for other companies to develop codes of conduct. It would appear that the time has come to include content about basic etiquette and protocol in company orientation, management and executive development programmes. Briefings about appropriate behavior and local etiquette would also be prudent for groups before they head overseas.

Photo Credit: Jennifer Kumar

2 thoughts on “Business and Incentive Travel: Mind Your Manners

  1. hehehe… After reading this, I couldn’t help wonder what can an event planner do to prevent or face these situations. I mean, is it really part of an event planner’s job to control all that? I find a thin line here. What do you think?

    • The only thing that the event planner can do is ensure that alcohol is served responsibly. Other than that, we are dealing with adults and they are free to make their own decisions and face the consequences. Perhaps articles like this will raise awareness and encourage companies to brief their teams before trips and events.

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