Over the years, we’ve talked a lot about group incentive travel.
Why? Because we believe that travel is one of the best drivers of performance there is and that when it’s done right, an incentive trip can be a true differentiator for you among your competitors.
We’ve come at this topic from a variety of angles, because when it comes to group incentive travel, there’s always a lot to consider.
Whether it’s identifying international challenges, preparing for and avoiding common mistakes, properly analyzing the demographics of your program audience, or finding new, cost-effective ways to fund your program, awareness of industry best practices can often make the difference between a good trip that meets your ROI expectations, and a great trip that exceeds them.
A Case for Group Travel
But if you’re not a performance improvement company, you probably don’t have a ton of internal resources to devote to your program, which can make it hard to account for all of the nuances that go into planning and managing an incentive trip. In other words, knowing what needs to be done, and actually having the resources to go out and do it, are two very different things.
You probably know where we’re going with this. As you consider what to do, consider your three basic options:
Option #1: Don’t offer a group incentive travel program at all (the “It’s not worth it” option)
Option #2: Run a group incentive travel program, but do it in-house (the “It’s worth it, but I’m not sure how much” option)
Option #3: Hire a third-party to organize and manage your program (the “I know how valuable a well-designed program can be” option)
If you accept the latest research by the Incentive Research Foundation (IRF), which claims that reward programs on average produce a 22% improvement in performance (and 44% for programs in place for longer than 6 months), you’ll probably want to go ahead and cross off Option #1.
That just leaves us with Options #2 and #3. Now, most organizations that reach this point in the decision-making process will likely contend that hiring a third-party to oversee an incentive travel program is more expensive upfront.
That might be true, but the real question isn’t about cost—it’s about value, that ever-elusive ROI.
Based on that same IRF White Paper, “reward programs work, but . . . they only produce the desired effect when they are carefully designed.”
This is especially true when it comes to group incentive travel programs, which demand a separate and specific set of insights and best practices in order to get the most out of them. This may be why best-in-class companies are more likely to employ third-party incentive professionals to design their programs.
Now, it could be argued that these companies choose to do this because they can afford to.
However, separate IRF research suggests that these companies—and the executives who run them—place a greater significance on incentive programs than do their less successful peers, the implication being that these top organizations believe outsourcing their group incentive travel program to third-party professionals can create additional value through superior program design.
So what are some of the enhanced design features you can get for your group incentive travel program simply by outsourcing its execution? There are a lot of different enhancements, but here are just a couple:
Anybody can book a trip. But how much can you know about a place if you’ve never been there before?
It’s why we’ll often ask friends who’ve traveled to a certain destination for travel advice about the destination before we go. The same is true with incentive trips.
It’s why most incentive travel organizations will do site inspections of potential properties long before they send a group there. It’s because it takes experience to know things like which local DMCs provide the best services, how to negotiate the best deal with luxury properties, and how to develop and leverage relationships with local personnel.
Knowing not just which questions to ask, but also where you can find the answers, can be a laborious task without a strategic partner.
For most people, an incentive trip is like a vacation. It’s a luxury, and people tend to enjoy luxuries when they’re not the norm.
But if you want your trip to be more than just a vacation for your participants—to be an event that’s truly memorable—then it will be important to find little ways to add value to the program.
Maybe you’re hosting a welcome event, but are you featuring a DJ or a live band? Are you offering a unique room gift for your VIPs? Do you have an app that helps your participants stay connected to each other during the trip? Were you able to find any low-cost excursions for your group, or does your itinerary mostly read “day of leisure”?
These types of add-ons aren’t the only way that a third-party can provide value to your program. By working with professionals who consistently purchase large blocks of airline tickets, hotel rooms, and group activities, you can also leverage the tremendous buying power that accompanies these relationships.
This helps to keep costs low while providing opportunities that might otherwise be priced out of your budget.
Finding ways, no matter how big or small, to add value to the trip experience is one of the big advantages that comes with outsourcing your group incentive travel program, helping to turn a good trip into a great one.
When you outsource your group incentive travel program, your partner should be with you every step of the way.
They should be as committed to your program as you are, if not more. From the point of contact, your goals become their goals.
As the program develops, they’re available 24/7 to provide support and troubleshoot any unexpected issues.
This includes dedicated program managers overseeing 24-hour live flight watch, accommodating special needs or requests, working with individual participants on late arrivals or trip extensions, and consistently communicating with experienced onsite staff.
A third-party organization can also monitor the progress and success of your program with real-time reporting, helping to forecast participation while managing growth and attrition. By interpreting data and identifying trends, they can propose real-time solutions that can really help move the needle.
Finally, once the trip is finished, they’re there to offer concrete analysis of what worked, what didn’t, and how to improve it moving forward.
Outsourcing your group travel program can provide a number of valuable benefits to your program.
To find out more, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 888.220.4780 to get the full scope of what an experienced incentive travel partner can do for you.