Selling incentive travel business differs from other 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 best 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 another business which has never been driven by commission. Agents, not the suppliers, set the margins. It’s lucrative.”
Incentives could also attract agents seeking a new challenge. “It’s new things and different and enables you to learn something totally new and new methods for doing things,” Tepper said.
The initial step after deciding to pursue incentive company is being prepared to dedicate staff on the effort, whether it’s existing staff who will be trained or new hires focused on incentives.
Once that decision is created, agents have to get training.
Now can be a good time to do that. SITE, the Society of Incentive Travel Executives, wants to launch a new Certified Incentive Specialist program by the end of the season. The 2-day program will probably be designed for incentive travel newcomers and will not require membership in SITE nor any minimum experience.
Incentive travel sellers need to comprehend companies as well as their motivational goals, whether that’s inspiring staff to market more or moving customers to purchase more services and products.
Once agents know the way 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 are able to also have that as a good source of potential customers.
Incentive travel is actually a natural for employee incentive travel. “Use your personal customer base to recognize possible leads and after that find out about their employee rewards program,” said Tim Smith, president of GlobalPoint Travel Solutions, a $70 million agency in San Diego County, which does about 3% from the business in meetings and conventions.
“It’s much better to sell a program for an individual or company with whom you own an existing relationship as opposed to chasing a vaporous potential customer. Love the main one you’re with and you’ll expand your influence,” Smith said.
Those who want to go after new clients won’t fight to find prospects.
“An industry in everyone’s backyard which uses 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 have to be in New York City, Chicago or L . A . to start,” Tepper said.
Working with incentive groups requires both a brand new mindset and new list of contacts.
“You’ll be working with a completely different network of suppliers,” Tepper added. “Even with the airlines and hotel companies you’ll be coping with different people.
“And, you’ve reached come into this thinking forget commission. We all do anything 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 are able to designate a passionate team to designing, managing and implementing incentive programs or seek assistance from meeting and incentive planners.
Operating the incentive business directly is, needless to say, more lucrative. In addition, it means agents simply cannot just take over the incentive business of clients with existing programs but may find companies that have never had an incentive program.
Another way to get involved in this business is usually to team on top of a gathering planner or meeting and incentive house. “It might be the perfect thing to do. There are millions of one- or two-person meeting planning businesses that might want to pair with an agent.” said Tepper.
Another option is always to partner having 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: Properties of American Marketing Group, Acclaim Meetings is a sister company traveling Market Report.)
Understanding the organization is crucial
In either case, the key to success is understanding incentive programs and just how they operate, in accordance with Anne Marie Moebes, executive v . p . of Acclaim Meetings.
“An agent first must understand why the organization is offering the incentive; what their set goals are and why the staff member is motivated to win the incentive,” she said.
“If you understand what’s within it for many parties, the agent could make a well informed decision on which to offer since the travel product,” she said.
“It must match the budget and requirements from the sponsoring company but concurrently entice the winner/employee in addition to their spouse or guest if they are part of the program. Often times the spouse is most likely the driving influence.”
As in all areas of travel, developing relationships is crucial not merely for clients however for vendors. “You need to work very closely with vendors. Use preferred vendors so you know they will likely go all the way,” said Wendy Burk, CEO of La Jolla, Calif.-based Cadence Travel.
“Use those you will have a longtime relationship with, because ultimately it’s information on relationships,” Burk added. “The danger of handling corporate, leisure and meetings is the domino effect. If you screw up one you’ll screw up the 3.”
Advice for smaller agencies
Although larger agencies with dedicated incentive travel staff may be very likely to handle incentive programs without outside help, even smaller agencies could go it independently.
Carol Horner came up with Virginia Beach, Va.-based Horner Incentive Group inside the mid-1900s after a few years as an agent and agency owner. She and her husband still own a travel agency but were advised in the beginning to produce a different name and identity for that incentive business.
“That’s what we did and thank goodness, because we changed our agency’s name 3 x. With my incentive business the name stayed a similar 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 utilize all-inclusives in their programs. She accustomed to create cruise incentives the good news is 49dexqpky programs featuring Mexican and Caribbean all-inclusives.
“You acquire more flexibility with land-based programs. You can do more team-building activities,” she said “A cruise is simply too restricting for a few people in terms of the dining. The VIP feels obligated to get along with the employees every night. And it’s considerably more lucrative to perform an all-inclusive when compared to a cruise.”
Allow it to be unforgettable
The work of an incentive planner is to create unforgettable experiences for participants.
“The single most important thing is the wow factor – the wow factor when it comes to the venue, the entertainment, the graphic design as well as the theme to thank their clients or top employees,” said Cadence Travel’s Burk.
“It could be ordinary London or Paris, but it will likely be something they can’t buy out of the box. Every aspect will probably be unique.”