Selling incentive travel business differs from other travel, but also for corporate or leisure agents who are likely to understand the ropes, this really is a profitable niche, with potentially high returns.
“Historically it’s been the best spend per person of almost any group travel,” said Bruce Tepper, v . p . 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 also may attract agents searching for a new challenge. “It’s a new challenge and other and enables you to learn interesting things and new methods for doing things,” Tepper said.
The initial step after deciding to pursue incentive business is being willing 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 made, agents have to get training.
Now could be a good time to do that. SITE, the Society of Incentive Travel Executives, wants to launch a brand new Certified Incentive Specialist program in the end of the year. The two-day program will likely be designed for incentive travel newcomers and definately will 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 acquire more products.
Once agents understand how incentives work, they should start seeking incentive business from existing clients. A primarily leisure agency might mine its customer base for executives or company owners. Agents who definitely are country club members are able to also have that as a good source of prospects.
Incentive travel is actually a natural for travel incentive companies. “Use your own client base to recognize possible leads after which find out about 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 their business in meetings and conventions.
“It’s much easier to sell a software program to a individual or company with whom you have an existing relationship instead of chasing a vaporous potential customer. Love the main one you’re with and you’ll expand your influence,” Smith said.
Those who wish to go after new customers won’t struggle to find prospects.
“An industry in everyone’s backyard that uses incentives in many cases is car dealers,” said Tepper. “Even a small 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, Chicago or Los Angeles to get started on,” Tepper said.
Working together with incentive groups requires both a fresh mindset and new list of contacts.
“You’ll be handling a completely different network of suppliers,” Tepper added. “Even with the airlines and hotel companies you’ll be dealing with each person.
“And, you’ve reached enter in to this thinking forget commission. We do from net. What pricing we use will determine what we sell for.”
Agents seeking incentive business also have to decide on their agency’s degree of involvement. They are able to designate a passionate team to designing, managing and implementing incentive programs or seek the aid of meeting and incentive planners.
Operating the incentive business directly is, needless to say, more lucrative. In addition, it means agents cannot usually take across the incentive business of clients with existing programs but may seek out firms that have not had a motivation program.
A different way to get involved in the company is to team with a meeting planner or meeting and incentive house. “It may be the perfect move to make. There are thousands of one- or two-person meeting planning firms that may want to pair up with a realtor.” said Tepper.
Another choice is to partner with a company like Oyster Bay, N.Y.-based Acclaim Meetings, which works together 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.)
Knowing the business is crucial
In any case, the key to success is understanding incentive programs and exactly how they operate, in accordance with Anne Marie Moebes, executive vice president of Acclaim Meetings.
“An agent first needs to understand why the business offers the incentive; what their goals are and why the staff member is motivated to win the incentive,” she said.
“If you understand what’s inside it for all parties, the agent can make a well informed decision on which to offer as being the travel product,” she said.
“It must match the budget and requirements from the sponsoring company but concurrently entice the winner/employee along with their spouse or guest when they are portion of the program. Often times the spouse is most likely the driving influence.”
As with every area of travel, developing relationships is vital not simply for clients however for vendors. “You have to work very closely with vendors. Use preferred vendors therefore you know they may go all the way,” said Wendy Burk, CEO of La Jolla, Calif.-based Cadence Travel.
“Use those you have a longtime relationship with, because ultimately it’s about relationships,” Burk added. “The danger of handling corporate, leisure and meetings may be the domino effect. In the event you screw up one you’ll screw up all three.”
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 may go it by themselves.
Carol Horner come up with Virginia Beach, Va.-based Horner Incentive Group from the mid-1900s after many years being an agent and agency owner. She and her husband still own a travel agency but were advised at the beginning to make 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 three times. With my incentive business the name stayed the identical right away,” she said.
All-inclusives for incentives
As a smaller agency with annual sales of $8 million, Horner finds it easier to use all-inclusives in her own programs. She accustomed to create cruise incentives however right now 49dexqpky programs featuring Mexican and Caribbean all-inclusives.
“You acquire more flexibility with land-based programs. You could do more team-building activities,” she said “A cruise is just too restricting for a few people regarding the dining. The VIP feels obligated to get along with employees every evening. And it’s much more lucrative to do an all-inclusive than a cruise.”
Allow it to be unforgettable
The task of the incentive planner is to create unforgettable experiences for participants.
“The single most important thing may be the wow factor – the wow factor in terms of 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 be something they can’t buy out of the box. Every aspect will be unique.”