At a recent networking bash, I was divulging a little bit about we do. I offered the usual soundbite pitch – Incentive travel/groups/fabulous hotels/trips of a lifetime etc., etc., etc.. and got the unexpected response of “Do companies still do big travel incentives?”
The lady in question (a successful business woman in her own right) scrunched up her nose as she said it and seemed incredulous that companies are still spending big bucks on business incentive travel, as if offering your sales team a trip to Barbados to sell more stuff was something out of the dark ages.
To be honest, I gave a brief response, chatted a little more and then I moved on to the canapés.
But it got me thinking. We live in a world where incentives drive our lives, so why would anyone think that the corporate environment is any different?
Why does Waitrose offer a meal for two at £10, including a decent bottle of wine?
Is it because they want you to pop in once and buy the deal? No, they want to incentivise you to pop in the store with a good chance you will purchase some other bits you weren’t planning on that you might have bought at Tesco’s.
Why does BA offer Avios points?
Yes, it’s a loyalty programme, but the nuts and bolts are that the more you spend on Amex or more flights you take with BA, the more you earn. And the more you earn, the more you can spend on flights. It’s a total incentive-based spending model.
So back to the corporate world. Incentives are fast becoming a staple of the the modern workplace. Unlimited free food, running tracks, gyms and crèches. They are all an incentives to feel relaxed, to work harder and to commit to the common cause. They may not be seen as a reward incentive, but it is what they are. So why wouldn’t companies still dangle that big carrot of an overseas incentive to their employees or clients.
There is no doubt that incentive-based business travel promotes communication, social interaction and loyalty to the business environment. We see it all the time. Colleagues that have never met, join up on a catamaran in Dubai with other members of their team and in an instant, new relationships are made. People knowing who they work with better can only be good for productivity. Surely?
In the 80s & 90s, business travel incentives were standard issue. They still for many clients who see the worth, but you do get people question them these days. I just can’t understand why you would question if they have a place. I may be biased but how can increasing client sales or sales team returns be a bad thing? We all love a reward and if the reward is big enough, we will do all we can to get it.
But they have to be done right. The destination, the “Wows”, the highlights, the hotel all need to suit the audience and suit the audience desires. A decent incentive is not cheap, but then why would it be. It’s not a Thomas Cook “one size fits all” package tour. A decent incentive is a bespoke event. It needs to be worth the effort to get on it. People should be talking about it for years to come. But most importantly, they should want to do everything they can to be on the next one.
A client approached us four years ago to say they wanted to organise a client incentive trip but needed to be more convinced on the ROI. My first comment was that they had to spend money on it. This was a new initiative to their clients. They needed to pitch it right. To be fair, they listened, allocated a decent budget and we put together a great programme. They packaged it beautifully to their clients, made it feel top end from the very first communication and it was a resounding success as a trip. But did they get their ROI? By all accounts, they gained an additional £6m revenue over and above the targets set. That seems pretty decent to me.
It’s not often we hear about tangible figures, but this just proves the worth of incentive-based travel. We receive major job satisfaction when we see people fondly recalling memories and experiences booked through Ulterior. I can’t help but feel it often has a higher ROI than a game of table tennis.