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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

First, your product must be worth buying and your sales force must have complete confidence in the product they are selling.
Second, your incentive travel program must be centered around an exciting and well-scheduled promotion with equitable and understandable campaign rules.

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.

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!

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 pr

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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