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60 seconds with… The Boosting Group’s Jan De Ridder

Active in the events market since 1995, Jan De Ridder founded The Boosting Group in 2010. The Belgium-based agency offers a range of services, but De Ridder’s main focus is on creating inspiring incentives for clients in destinations around the world. “Incentives make up around 80% of the business,” he says.

Brand promise…
I have a reputation for thinking out of the box. I like to call myself the hotspot hunter – not someone looking for free wi-fi of course – but I am always on the hunt for new and special venues and destinations. To be honest, the company is me and I am the company.

What’s trending in 2019?
Corporates want direct flights, that is really important. Comfortable flights are also increasingly important, so we’re booking more Premium Economy and some clients are also paying for Business Class for smaller groups. In terms of destinations, we’re working a lot in central and eastern European destinations such as Romania, which offers really good value. The Transfagarasan Highway in particular is amazing for incentives – we’ve done it twice now.

We expect to see more clients opt for smaller incentive groups because it enables better interaction with their clients. For example, one of our clients is now choosing to run two groups of 25 back-to-back, rather than one bigger incentive for 50. Another trend we are seeing is clients tying in their incentives with major events – this year we are taking a group to the F1 in Abu Dhabi, while last year we combined an incentive trip to the US Open with a stopover in Iceland.

Luxury defined…
The most important thing is service. There are beautiful hotels everywhere but it’s the people inside the hotels that make the difference and provide that personal touch. Luxury is no longer Champagne, oysters and caviar – people can buy these things for themselves. It’s about the experiences we create for them.

Townhouse or treehouse?
I like both. I am originally a city guy but I moved my office out of the city, and we are now surrounded by forest.

The bucket list
I travel a lot – around 30 times a year, and at least five times a year for myself to see new destinations. I have visited more than 110 countries and I want to see them all. I have experienced a lot of Africa, Europe and central and South America, but not travelled as much in Asia, so I would like to tick more Asian countries off the list. Sri Lanka in particular is a destination I definitely want to see soon.

Last meal
I went to a small Italian restaurant locally called La Pergola with one of my shareholders. It’s owned by a Sardinian guy who makes the most fantastic Italian food. We shared a beautiful bottle of red and my shareholder paid the bill, which is always nice!

Aperol or agua?
My drink of choice is vodka and Coke Zero. I’m not a real Belgian because I don’t drink beer!

Old fave
My number one hotel is the Belmond Grand Hotel Europe in St Petersburg. I stay there around 7-8 times a year so for me, it feels like coming home. The personal service is amazing, and I have known some of the staff there for 20 years!

Proud moment
Every time I have successful event, I am really proud of what we achieved. I am often critical of myself and think there are things that could be better, but when I am 100% satisfied, it’s a great feeling. The day I don’t have that feeling anymore I’ll do something else.

Bragging rights…
For the ICMA (International Capital Market Association) AGM in Paris in 2011, we projected onto the façade of the Musée Rodin using virtual reality, which was something really special. Lots of agencies talk about VR now as if it’s something new, and we did that nine years ago.

What inspires you?
I buy a lot of magazines in the airport so get inspiration from those. And I attend a few high-level networking events like inVOYAGE, which is great for networking and face-to-face meetings.

Final word…
I started this business from zero and it’s my life. It is a demanding and personal business, but it’s helped me to develop as a person. Travelling is the only thing that costs you money and makes you rich. I have experienced and learned so much that I would never have known without travel and it gives me great happiness when business is going well.

By Susie Harwood

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