Selling incentive travel business is different from other kinds of travel, however for corporate or leisure agents who are prepared to understand the ropes, it is a profitable niche, with potentially high returns.
“Historically it’s been the highest spend per person of any type of group travel,” said Bruce Tepper, vice president of Joselyn, Tepper & Associates, a travel industry consulting and training firm.
“This is yet another business that has never been driven by commission. Agents, not the suppliers, set the margins. It’s lucrative.”
Incentives also may appeal to agents searching for a new challenge. “It’s something totally new and various and making you learn something totally new and new ways of doing things,” Tepper said.
Step one after choosing to pursue incentive business is being happy to dedicate staff for the effort, whether it’s existing staff which will be trained or new hires dedicated to incentives.
Once that decision is manufactured, agents should get training.
Now may be a good time to achieve that. SITE, the Society of Incentive Travel Executives, plans to launch a whole new Certified Incentive Specialist program by the end of year. The two-day program will probably be created for incentive travel newcomers and can not require membership in SITE nor any minimum experience.
Incentive travel sellers need to comprehend companies in addition to their motivational goals, whether that’s inspiring staff to offer more or moving customers to buy more products.
Once agents understand 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 definitely are country club members can also use that as an excellent source of prospects.
Incentive travel is really a natural for travel incentive company. “Use your own personal customer base to determine possible leads then check out their employee rewards program,” said Tim Smith, president of GlobalPoint Travel Solutions, a $70 million agency in The San Diego Area, which does about 3% of their business in meetings and conventions.
“It’s much easier to sell a treatment program with an individual or company with whom you own an existing relationship in contrast to chasing a vaporous possible client. Love normally the one you’re with and you’ll expand your influence,” Smith said.
Identifying potential customers
Those who would like to go after new clients won’t battle to find prospects.
“An industry in everyone’s backyard that utilizes incentives frequently is car dealers,” said Tepper. “Even a tiny dealer has 20 or 30 salespeople.
“Look for distributors of anything, like Coca Cola and Pepsi bottlers. You don’t need to be in New York City, Chicago or Los Angeles to get started on,” Tepper said.
Working with incentive groups requires both a whole new mindset and new pair of contacts.
“You’ll be handling an entirely different network of suppliers,” Tepper added. “Even with the airlines and hotel companies you’ll be coping with differing people.
“And, you’ve got to come into this thinking forget commission. We do from net. What pricing we use determines what we should sell for.”
Agents seeking incentive business also need to choose their agency’s level of involvement. They could designate a devoted team to designing, managing and implementing incentive programs or seek help from meeting and incentive planners.
Operating the incentive business directly is, of course, more lucrative. In addition, it means agents cannot usually take over the incentive business of clients with existing programs but will look for businesses that have never had a reason program.
An additional way to get involved in the business is to team up with a conference planner or meeting and incentive house. “It may be the perfect action to take. There are thousands of one- or two-person meeting planning businesses that may wish to pair with a broker.” said Tepper.
Another choice is always to partner by using a company like Oyster Bay, N.Y.-based Acclaim Meetings, which works with agents on negotiations, bookings, commission collection and technology. (Editor’s note: Properties of American Marketing Group, Acclaim Meetings is really a sister company to Travel Market Report.)
Understanding the organization is crucial
In any event, the way to succeed is understanding incentive programs and exactly how they operate, based on Anne Marie Moebes, executive v . p . of Acclaim Meetings.
“An agent first needs to understand why the organization is providing the incentive; what their set goals are and why the staff member is motivated to win the incentive,” she said.
“If you recognize what’s inside for all parties, the agent could make an informed decision on which to provide as being the travel product,” she said.
“It must fulfill the budget and requirements in the sponsoring company but simultaneously entice the winner/employee as well as their spouse or guest if they are part of the program. Often times the spouse can be the driving influence.”
Like all areas of travel, developing relationships is crucial not just for clients but for vendors. “You should work very closely with vendors. Use preferred vendors which means you know they will likely go all out,” said Wendy Burk, CEO of La Jolla, Calif.-based Cadence Travel.
“Use those there is a longtime relationship with, because eventually it’s exactly about relationships,” Burk added. “The danger of handling corporate, leisure and meetings may be the domino effect. Should you screw up one you’ll screw up all 3.”
Advice for smaller agencies
Although larger agencies with dedicated incentive travel staff could be more prone to handle incentive programs without outside help, even smaller agencies will go it alone.
Carol Horner came up with Virginia Beach, Va.-based Horner Incentive Group within the mid-1900s after many years as being an agent and agency owner. She and her husband still own a travel agency but were advised at the beginning to generate a different name and identity to the incentive business.
“That’s what we did and thank goodness, because we changed our agency’s name 3 times. 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 simpler to use all-inclusives in their programs. She accustomed to create cruise incentives but now 49dexqpky programs featuring Mexican and Caribbean all-inclusives.
“You get more flexibility with land-based programs. That you can do more team-building activities,” she said “A cruise is simply too restricting for a few people regarding the dining. The VIP feels obligated to get along with the workers every single night. And it’s a lot more lucrative to complete an all-inclusive than a cruise.”
Allow it to be unforgettable
The work of an incentive planner would be to create unforgettable experiences for participants.
“The single most important thing is definitely the wow factor – the wow factor when it comes to the venue, the entertainment, the graphic design and the theme to thank their clients or top employees,” said Cadence Travel’s Burk.
“It could be ordinary London or Paris, but it will be something they can’t buy out of the box. Every aspect will probably be unique.”