The ITT conference is likely to return to a short-haul destination for 2013 after delegate numbers for Barbados failed to hit the institute’s target of 400 for the first time in seven years.

Portugal is the front runner to host next year’s event.

ITT chairman and chief executive Steven Freudmann revealed: “We are in serious discussions with the Portuguese to take the conference to the Algarve next year. The ITT likes to go to new destinations and we’ve never been to Portugal before so it would be somewhere different, it’s easily accessible and there’s a brand new Conrad hotel about to open. We have a corporate partnership with the Hilton Group so it would be very convenient for us.”

But Freudmann said if he accepted Portugal’s offer for 2013, it would be highly likely that the conference would go long-haul again the following year. He said he had offers from several Middle Eastern destinations but that he would probably consider a destination featured by Virgin Holidays again following the operator’s “immense involvement” in this year’s event in Barbados as travel partner and sponsor/creator of the final night party.

“Amanda Wills, the managing director, has indicated that they would love to be involved again and if she can promise me another party like last night, then I’d be very interested. They only go long-haul of course but they have loads of destinations, such as South Africa, Cancun, Las Vegas etc.

“We will be looking for somewhere with a five-star resort hotel that can take all 400 of us, and I think eight hours’ flying time is about the limit of what we can expect delegates to travel.”

Freudmann confirmed numbers in Barbados had been 368 which was a “reduction” on the usual 400 but claimed it could have hit the target had it relaxed its rule on allowing only two delegates per company, except for sponsors and the media.

He also pointed out that the attendance was more than the last time the ITT had held its conference in Barbados, in 2005, when only 330 had attended.

He claimed feedback from delegates had been extremely positive with “most of the major players in attendance” and claimed that early indications were that the institute should continue to go long-haul.

“One thing’s for sure, and that is that the resort environment, and being in one hotel, really works for us. Our senior delegates network much better in a pair of Bermuda shorts than in a collar and tie.”