Selling incentive travel business differs from other kinds of travel, but for corporate or leisure agents who are likely to understand the ropes, this can be a profitable niche, with potentially high returns.
“Historically it’s been the greatest spend per person of almost any group travel,” said Bruce Tepper, vice president of Joselyn, Tepper & Associates, a travel industry consulting and training firm.
“This is also a business containing never been driven by commission. Agents, not the suppliers, set the margins. It’s lucrative.”
Incentives may also appeal to agents trying to find a new challenge. “It’s something totally new and different and causes you to learn interesting things and new methods of doing things,” Tepper said.
The first task after deciding to pursue incentive industry is being prepared to dedicate staff towards the effort, whether it’s existing staff who will be trained or new hires devoted to incentives.
Once that decision is produced, agents need to get training.
Now may be a good time to do that. SITE, the Society of Incentive Travel Executives, offers to launch a whole new Certified Incentive Specialist program at the end of the year. The 2-day program will be created for incentive travel newcomers and may not require membership in SITE nor any minimum experience.
Incentive travel sellers need to understand companies along with 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 ought to start seeking incentive business from existing clients. A primarily leisure agency might mine its client base for executives or company owners. Agents who are country club members are able to also use that as a good source of prospective clients.
Incentive travel is really a natural for individual incentive. “Use your own personal customer base to determine possible leads and then check out 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 better to sell a course for an individual or company with whom you possess an existing relationship instead of chasing a vaporous possible client. Love normally the one you’re with and you’ll expand your influence,” Smith said.
Identifying potential customers
Those that want to go after new customers won’t fight to find prospects.
“An industry in everyone’s backyard that utilizes incentives very often is car dealers,” said Tepper. “Even a compact dealer has 20 or 30 salespeople.
“Look for distributors of anything, like Coca Cola and Pepsi bottlers. You don’t need to be in Ny, Chicago or Los Angeles to start out,” Tepper said.
Working together with incentive groups requires both a new mindset and new pair of contacts.
“You’ll be handling a completely different network of suppliers,” Tepper added. “Even with the airlines and hotel companies you’ll be handling each person.
“And, you’ve got to come into this thinking forget commission. We all do anything from net. What pricing we use will determine what we should sell for.”
Agents seeking incentive business also need to select their agency’s level of involvement. They may designate a dedicated team to designing, managing and implementing incentive programs or seek the aid of meeting and incentive planners.
Operating the incentive business directly is, obviously, more lucrative. It also means agents cannot only take within the incentive business of clients with existing programs but could seek out firms that have not had an incentive program.
A different way to get involved with the company would be to team on top of a meeting planner or meeting and incentive house. “It could be the perfect action to take. There are millions of one- or two-person meeting planning businesses that might choose to pair with a real estate agent.” said Tepper.
Another option is usually to partner by using a company like Oyster Bay, N.Y.-based Acclaim Meetings, which works together agents on negotiations, bookings, commission collection and technology. (Editor’s note: Properties of American Marketing Group, Acclaim Meetings is actually a sister company to Travel Market Report.)
Learning the business is crucial
Either way, the way to succeed is understanding incentive programs and the way they operate, as outlined by Anne Marie Moebes, executive vice president of Acclaim Meetings.
“An agent first must understand why the organization offers the incentive; what their goals are and why the worker is motivated to win the incentive,” she said.
“If you understand what’s inside for all those parties, the agent can make a knowledgeable decision on which to offer since the travel product,” she said.
“It must meet the budget and requirements from the sponsoring company but at the same time entice the winner/employee as well as their spouse or guest if they are section of the program. Many times the spouse can be the driving influence.”
Like all areas of travel, developing relationships is very important not merely for clients however for vendors. “You have to work very closely with vendors. Use preferred vendors so that you know they are going to go all out,” said Wendy Burk, CEO of La Jolla, Calif.-based Cadence Travel.
“Use those you will have a longtime relationship with, because in the end it’s exactly about relationships,” Burk added. “The danger of handling corporate, leisure and meetings will be the domino effect. In the event you screw up one you’ll screw up the 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 may go it alone.
Carol Horner created the Virginia Beach, Va.-based Horner Incentive Group from the mid-1900s after a few years as being an agent and agency owner. She and her husband still own a travel agency but were advised early on to produce a different name and identity for that incentive business.
“That’s what we should did and thank goodness, because we changed our agency’s name 3 x. With my incentive business the name stayed the identical right from the start,” she said.
All-inclusives for incentives
As being a smaller agency with annual sales of $8 million, Horner finds it easier to utilize all-inclusives in their programs. She utilized to create cruise incentives but now 49dexqpky programs featuring Mexican and Caribbean all-inclusives.
“You have more flexibility with land-based programs. That can be done more team-building activities,” she said “A cruise is just too restricting for many people with regards to the dining. The VIP feels obligated to be with the workers every night. And it’s considerably more lucrative to perform an all-inclusive compared to a cruise.”
Make it unforgettable
The job of the incentive planner would be to create unforgettable experiences for participants.
“The most crucial thing is definitely the wow factor – the wow factor in relation to 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 can also be ordinary London or Paris, but it will be something they can’t buy off the shelf. Every aspect is going to be unique.”