Selling incentive travel business is different from other travel, however, for corporate or leisure agents who are able to learn the ropes, this really is a profitable niche, with potentially high returns.
“Historically it’s been the very best spend per person of any kind of group travel,” said Bruce Tepper, v . p . of Joselyn, Tepper & Associates, a travel industry consulting and training firm.
“This is also a business that has never been driven by commission. Agents, not the suppliers, set the margins. It’s lucrative.”
Incentives could also entice agents looking for a new challenge. “It’s something new and various and enables you to learn something totally new and new methods for doing things,” Tepper said.
The first task after deciding to pursue incentive company is being willing to dedicate staff on the effort, whether it’s existing staff who will be trained or new hires devoted to incentives.
Once that decision is produced, agents have to get training.
Now may be a good time to achieve that. SITE, the Society of Incentive Travel Executives, intends to launch a whole new Certified Incentive Specialist program at the end of the season. The 2-day program will likely be designed for incentive travel newcomers and can not require membership in SITE nor any minimum experience.
Incentive travel sellers need to understand companies in addition to their motivational goals, whether that’s inspiring staff to market more or moving customers to purchase more products.
Once agents know how incentives work, they need to start seeking incentive business from existing clients. A primarily leisure agency might mine its client base for executives or company owners. Agents who happen to be country club members can likewise use that as a good source of prospects.
Incentive travel can be a natural for travel incentive company. “Use your very own client base to distinguish possible leads then check out their employee rewards program,” said Tim Smith, president of GlobalPoint Travel Solutions, a $70 million agency in San Diego, Ca, which does about 3% of its business in meetings and conventions.
“It’s much easier to sell a course for an individual or company with whom you own an existing relationship instead of chasing a vaporous potential client. Love the one you’re with and you’ll expand your influence,” Smith said.
Identifying prospective clients
Those who want to go after new clients won’t find it hard to find prospects.
“An industry in everyone’s backyard which utilizes incentives in many cases is car dealers,” said Tepper. “Even a little dealer has 20 or 30 salespeople.
“Look for distributors of anything, like Coca Cola and Pepsi bottlers. You don’t really need to be in New York, Chicago or La to start,” Tepper said.
Working with incentive groups requires both a fresh mindset and new pair of contacts.
“You’ll be working with a completely different network of suppliers,” Tepper added. “Even with all the airlines and hotel companies you’ll be handling each person.
“And, you’ve got to enter into this thinking forget commission. Perform anything from net. What pricing we use determines everything we sell for.”
Agents seeking incentive business also need to decide on their agency’s amount of involvement. They may designate a devoted team to designing, managing and implementing incentive programs or seek the help of meeting and incentive planners.
Operating the incentive business directly is, of course, more lucrative. It also means agents can not only take across the incentive business of clients with existing programs but will search for firms that have never had a motivation program.
An alternate way to get involved in the company is usually to team with a meeting planner or meeting and incentive house. “It may be the perfect thing to do. There are thousands of one- or two-person meeting planning businesses that might choose to pair track of a broker.” said Tepper.
An alternative choice is usually to partner by using a company like Oyster Bay, N.Y.-based Acclaim Meetings, which works together with agents on negotiations, bookings, commission collection and technology. (Editor’s note: Belonging to American Marketing Group, Acclaim Meetings is actually a sister company to Travel Market Report.)
Understanding the industry is crucial
In either case, the key to success is understanding incentive programs and just how they operate, according to Anne Marie Moebes, executive v . p . of Acclaim Meetings.
“An agent first needs to understand why the company is offering the incentive; what their goals are and why the employee is motivated to win the incentive,” she said.
“If you recognize what’s inside for those parties, the agent can certainly make an informed decision on which to supply as the travel product,” she said.
“It must satisfy the budget and requirements of your sponsoring company but simultaneously entice the winner/employee along with their spouse or guest should they be area of the program. Many times the spouse could be the driving influence.”
As in every area of travel, developing relationships is vital not merely for clients however, for vendors. “You must work very closely with vendors. Use preferred vendors therefore you know they are going to go all the way,” said Wendy Burk, CEO of La Jolla, Calif.-based Cadence Travel.
“Use those you do have a longtime relationship with, because in the long run it’s exactly about relationships,” Burk added. “The danger of handling corporate, leisure and meetings is the domino effect. When you screw up one you’ll screw up all three.”
Advice for smaller agencies
Although larger agencies with dedicated incentive travel staff could be prone to handle incentive programs without outside help, even smaller agencies will go it by themselves.
Carol Horner come up with Virginia Beach, Va.-based Horner Incentive Group within the mid-1900s after many years being an agent and agency owner. She and her husband still own a travel agency but were advised in early stages to create a different name and identity to the incentive business.
“That’s what we should did and thank goodness, because we changed our agency’s name thrice. With my incentive business the name stayed the same right from the start,” she said.
All-inclusives for incentives
Being a smaller agency with annual sales of $8 million, Horner finds it easier to use all-inclusives in their programs. She used to create cruise incentives but now 49dexqpky programs featuring Mexican and Caribbean all-inclusives.
“You get more flexibility with land-based programs. You can do more team-building activities,” she said “A cruise is just too restricting for many people regarding the dining. The VIP feels obligated to be with the workers every evening. And it’s considerably more lucrative to accomplish an all-inclusive when compared to a cruise.”
Help it become unforgettable
The position of any incentive planner is to create unforgettable experiences for participants.
“The single most important thing is definitely the wow factor – the wow factor with regards to the venue, the entertainment, the graphic design along with the theme to thank their potential customers or top employees,” said Cadence Travel’s Burk.
“It could even be ordinary London or Paris, but it will likely be something they can’t buy out of the box. Every aspect will likely be unique.”