Frequently Asked Question's

What is incentive travel?  How much should it cost?  What results can you expect from it?  Can it help your company's marketing effort?  The answers to all of these questions must be tailored to your company.  Your particular methods of doing business,  your distribution system, your  clientele and your overall sales objectives must be considered.  Incentive travel is a complex, sophisticated marketing tool, thus it cannot be dealt with in generalities.  By the same token, it takes a high degree of experience and professionalism to structure a travel program that will work for you with maximum effectiveness.

Below is a list of the most commonly asked questions about incentive travel.  It is intended to give you an overview of the concept of incentive travel.  These questions and answers will probably raise many additional questions that apply specifically to your business...and that's where Destinations Unlimited will be glad to help you.

Table of Contents

What is the scope of incentive travel in American business today?

Last year, approximately $3 billion was spent on travel incentives.  The concept of travel as a prime incentive really caught hold in the Sixties when jet transportation combined with growing sophistication made travel an ideal award.  Since then, the concept has grown rapidly.

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Will it continue to grow?

The immediate future of incentive travel is very bright.  In a recent survey, spokesmen for more than 90% of the firms involved in incentive travel said they planned to continue travel programs on a yearly basis.  A third of the respondents said expanded programs were planned.

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What accounts for such rapid growth and such a bright future?

Incentive travel WORKS. It has many advantages, the most unique of which is that it benefits the giver as well as the receiver. Group travel provides fertile ground for informal business discussions.  Top producers have a chance to mingle, compare notes and stimulate one another.  Similarly, it creates a favorable atmosphere in which company executives, salesmen and clients can get to know one another.  There are other advantages.  Travel is a status symbol which develops prestige and builds morale.  It's educational and healthful and gives the participant something he or she loves...a vacation.  In addition, INCENTIVE TRIPS PAY FOR THEMSELVES!  Their glamour and excitement are highly promotable and there is an endless variety of trips from which to choose.  Travel is talked about before, during and after the sales contest.  And after the trip, winners return refreshed and enthusiastic about the sponsoring company.  The essential benefit of incentive travel is unbeatable when it is properly conceived and operated.  IT BUILDS SALES AND INSTILLS YEAR ROUND LOYALTY TOWARD THE SPONSORING COMPANY!

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What percentage of my incentive budget should I set aside for travel?

The percentage must be determined by the company's marketing situation.  An incentive campaign is a very complex program and choosing the right kind of award to do the motivating is a very important factor.  But it's only one factor.  As part of the whole campaign, the trip must be put in its proper perspective.  It's an award, not a program.  The incentive buyer shouldn't really be interested in buying a trip.  What you are selling is MOTIVATION to buy your product.  In all candor, however, if you do not sell this motivational aspect associated with your product, the best trip in the world will have little impact.

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If the award itself doesn't provide total motivation, what does?

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How can the campaign rules be made most effective?

They should be easy to understand, challenging to the participant and equitable to both participant and sponsor.  They should represent a goal, which is attainable for a majority of participants, if they put forth the extra effort of which they are capable.  Goals that are set too high won't motivate the individual.  If they're set too low, the sponsor won't receive the results for which he's paying.  Above all, campaign rules must be clearly understood, fair and meaningful to all participants.  Realistic objectives must be set for all members of your sales force and your clients.  You have to reward those who achieve those objectives, or exceed them.

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How are incentive trips most effectively budgeted?

Incentive travel sponsors use three basic formulas.  The most popular method is to base trips on a percentage of increased sales.  An estimate is made of how much more business the sales force and the distributor organization could realistically develop with a good incentive.  The estimated percentage increase gives the planner an idea of what this would mean in profit dollars to the company.  He then determines how much of this new profit he's willing to share with the combined sales team in the form of an attractive trip.  This figure is his trip budget.  He then divides this figure by the number of salespeople and dealers expected to qualify.  This gives him a rough estimate of what the total trip package should cost per individual participant, including promotion.  A big bonus of this method is in the increased sales contributed by those participants who don't qualify for  the trip.  In effect, it costs nothing for this increase since all costs are based on the number of trip winners.

A second method is to determine the trip budget by dollar figure per product bought or sold to meet quota.  The company induces salespeople and dealers to sell or buy extra units, for which they will receive points toward the trip. 

A third method is to figure trip costs and work backwards to set a quota.  A variation of any of these three methods is to set a trip price, after which increases in sales or purchases reduce that price to the participant.  Thus, he or she can earn a whole trip free or part of it and pay the difference.  This enables "near winners" to take the trip...but it has the additional effect of wiping out the bonus dollars contributed by those who try but do not win the prize.

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In establishing quotas, how should a base be figured?

A good rule to follow in any incentive travel program is to make the base as wide as you can.  Include as many different types of people in the program as possible with realistic quotas.  If an incentive sponsor stimulates his or her advertisers, that's fine.  But if at the same time he or she motivates sales managers, account executives, and advertising agency principals as well, there's that much more momentum and enthusiasm generated not to mention increased sales.

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What role does promotion play in an inventive travel campaign?

Since the incentive buyer is essentially buying not just an award but the power of motivation, promotions an absolutely vital element of an incentive campaign.  It builds up the attention-getting excitement that triggers motivation. The best and most inspired rules...the smoothest administrative procedures...the most exciting and elaborate award offering all go for naught if the participant isn't continually aroused, reminded, inspired and told what he or she has to do in order to earn what they want.  This is the purpose of promotion.  It need not be expensive...but it must be used.  Powerful promotion is the communication device that builds the strongest possible program and guarantees the most successful results.  In the survey mentioned above, more than a third of incentive travel sponsors stated that promotion is the single most important element of the program.

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How much of the trip budget should be spent on promotion?

As stated above, the promotional percentage does not need to be high.  A large majority of travel incentive sponsors spend less than 10% of their overall incentive travel budget on promotion...with many spending less than 5%.  Effectiveness and imagination are the key factors...not scale or lavishness.

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What's the most important element of effective promotion?

Most effective promotions grow from an exciting theme.  The theme can reflect the contest or challenge, the destination or the sales objective.  It can even have "corn" appeal...as long as it sparks interest and keeps interest maintained.  All of the individual phases and elements of promotion stem from the theme announcement letters, brochures, posters, souvenirs, bulletins, etc. 

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How frequently should these elements be employed in a campaign?

Promotional material should be sent to contestants regularly - never less than three to four weeks apart.  This material should communicate the progress of the contest.  Participants should be kept abreast of their trip standing and how their efforts compare with their associates' performances.  Peer recognition is part of the reward of winning a sales contest. 

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Is it beneficial to include wives and husbands in the incentive program?

There are a number of sound reasons for taking wives and husbands along on an incentive trip.  They're great contest boosters.  If they're invited to come along, they'll motivate their partners to try harder to win.  In addition, they help to create a true vacation atmosphere, a social atmosphere without any business pressure.  With wives and husbands along, there are more entertainment possibilities than with "just the boys" or  "just  the ladies."  When not invited, wives and husbands tend to create a resentful feeling around the home, which cannot help business.  These factors have become so evident that today wives and husbands are included in 80% of all incentive trips. 

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How important is the campaign's promotional effort to wives and husbands?

Since wives & husbands motivate their partners to win the trip award, they should definitely be included in the promotional communication of the trip.  At least half of all promotional materials should therefore be addressed to the home.  They should explain to the wife or husband how she or he can help their partner reach quota and they should keep them advised of their partner's progress.  A few of the mailings should be made directly to the wives or husbands, playing up the overall excitement and glamour of the destination.

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How deluxe should an incentive trip really be?

The value of an incentive trip as a "possible dream" is immense from a motivational standpoint.  People will work hard to make that dream come true, therefore it must be deluxe all the way.  If you start trying to save a few dollars here and there, you can ruin it.  The people working toward the dream aren't second best...they're the top producers, therefore they should receive the best possible treatment. 

This applies to every element of the trip, from airport check in to the homeward flight. For example, to have an open bar  with brand  name  liquors and a wide assortment of hot and  cold  hors d'oeuvres and live music doesn't really cost that much more, but it creates the totally sociable and enjoyable atmosphere you want at  a welcoming cocktail party.  By the same token, menus and restaurants have to be carefully selected because dining is one of the great joys of a trip. 

Since incentive trips are rewards, incentive planners should insist that they be pleasurable experiences.  All the discomforts and uncertainties of travel to a faraway place should be eliminated. 

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What criteria should be established in choosing a supplier for an incentive trip?

The incentive sponsor should be sure he or she is comparing apples and apples instead of apples and oranges.  The welcoming cocktail party mentioned above - which is such an important element in any group travel program - can be a shoddy affair, if placed in incompetent hands.  Bar-quality, off-brand scotch, gin and bourbon could be served.  Hors d'oeuvres could consist of three platters of spread crackers, stuffed celery and cubes of cheese.  Music could be piped in or be nonexistent.  The party itself could be held in a roped-off corner of a mezzanine, instead of in an opulent private room of proper size for the group. 

Such things make a big difference in the impressions and the memories of the trip participants.  Professional planning and operation ensures that those things will be properly taken care of.  The key factor is planning, and that requires a real depth of experience and knowledge...both of sales motivation and all the various elements of a travel program.  Beyond the planning stage, a truly professional group travel staff must be on hand to make sure everything that could conceivably go wrong doesn't.  Anticipating and therefore eliminating problems is the hallmark of the professional travel consultant.

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