Incentive travel is transforming as businesses seek exotic and original
locations in which to build corporate spirit.
All the world’s destinations will once again come under one roof at this
year’s World Travel Market. Over 4000 exhibitors are expected to attend
the travel trade show, which will be held at London’s Earls Court from
One of the major themes of the Business and Incentive Travel Day on
November 13 will be the more creative approach clients and suppliers are
taking to incentive travel, and the higher demand for exotic locations.
The role of incentive travel within companies is also changing, as it is
used to enhance the structure of corporate communications and to help
build a stronger team spirit between colleagues. The benefits of this
new approach have been felt by the whole incentive travel sector.
Sarah Webster, executive director of the Incentive Travel and Meetings
Association, says that the incentive travel market is experiencing a
positive period of growth and that ITMA members have reported an
increase in turnover.
‘During the recession, companies had to be conservative with their
budgets and it was bad to be seen to be going to exotic locations. But
now the industry has regenerated, and this optimism has converted into
increased business,’ says Webster.
She says clients are being more adventurous in their choice of incentive
travel destinations, and are keen to look at more creative and exciting
‘Previously most incentive travel took place in Europe and the UK, and
the core of incentive travel buyers still stick to those places.
Destinations such as the US and popular spots such as Barcelona continue
to be perennial favourites. But now people are looking at more offbeat
destinations, from Finland to South America to Zimbabwe.
‘People want to do more exciting things, such as white-water rafting,
and experience different cultures instead of the standard manufactured
entertainment which was once the norm,’ she says.
Sells like team spirit
The other important development in incentive travel is that companies
have started to focus on groups rather than individuals. Incentive
travel is no longer just a reward for individual achievement but is
becoming an exercise in building team spirit.
‘The corporate communications aspect is more visible,’ says Webster.
‘There are now deliberate attempts to break down the barriers between
departments and offer an opportunity for genuine dialogue.’
This indicates that incentive travel is becoming part of the
communications culture within companies. Webster says that the three
building blocks of corporate communications, motivation and event
management are no longer separate entities but are beginning to overlap
Graham Keene from LMG International, one of the speakers at the ITMA
seminar, agrees that incentive travel should be incorporated into the
corporate communications process.
‘Businesses are looking to maximise performance, while keeping a lid on
rising costs for training and incentives. Motivational initiatives are
being integrated with skills development and these are linked with team
building,’ says Keene.
‘In moving away from ‘elitist’ top performer programmes, which are often
demotivating for the rest, budgets are better deployed for the benefit
of all staff, focusing on overall business and team objectives.’
He stresses the move from being passive to actively participating in
events. ‘No longer is the sales conference an annual ‘jolly’: delegates
are expected to participate in training exercises which can be purposely
designed around the company, its products and services.’
He also points out that incentives are used across other departments in
a company, such as human resources departments, as well as the sales and
marketing division. As a consequence, incentive travel suppliers have to
be aware of these developments within companies and adapt accordingly.
‘The industry has to take a holistic approach to service provision, with
a real focus on innovation and understanding client objectives,’ says
A series of seminars will run on the Business and Incentive Travel Day
at which these issues will be discussed in full. Leading industry
figures are holding the seminars to provoke thought and inform delegates
of current industry trends.
The seminars are sponsored by ITMA and the Society of Incentive Travel
Executives (SITE). They will be joined for the first time this year by
Meeting Professionals International and Business Traveller magazine,
which intend to give a greater emphasis to the meeting planning side of
ITMA’s seminar looks at the new directions for incentive travel and will
reveal the top five incentive travel destinations for 1997.
The seminar organised by SITE focuses on selling incentive travel
products and services internationally. It is aimed at suppliers who wish
to increase their share of the market place, and offers hints on how to
survive in an international market.
Industry experts offer a guide to the international arena, emphasising
the need to understand competitors, defining international jargon and
analysing which selling methods work best. It also focuses on how to use
budgets effectively to get the maximum return on investment.
John Fisher, managing director of Page & Moy Marketing, examines the
difference between supplying products and developing services that are
relevant to a multinational buyer, and how suppliers should market
themselves while fighting for market share.
MPI’s seminar, on the other hand, looks at maximising return on
investment in meeting planning. It is aimed at conference organisers and
meetings planners, encouraging them to review the accountability of each
It will look at the time and energy costs involved in a meeting and asks
if the time could have been spent doing something more valuable. It
comes up with a five-point plan to help meeting planners get the best
return on their investment.
Business Traveller magazine appraises the future role of the travel
manager. In the battle to reduce costs, companies are hiring independent
companies to manage their travel budget. This seminar gives guidance on
the pros and cons of hiring a travel agency and how to go about it.
Exhibitors at the show will be taking the opportunity to launch new
products on their stands and to attract buyers to this growing market.
Swissotel will be displaying a new system which links the group’s four
American hotels and is soon to be introduced to its Asian and European
The system provides immediate and updated information that can quote
room availability and make reservations for conference and incentive
buyers. It also has a CD-ROM facility that can be used in presentations
Another exhibitor looking to catch the attention of corporate buyers is
London Entertains, part of the Rank Organisation. It is launching a new
corporate brochure to expand its range of ‘dinner plus entertainment’
evenings in London. It is introducing Scottish and Irish evenings, jazz
and casino evenings, as well as offering bespoke evenings to suit
Fred Olsen Cruises is introducing an incentive option for organisers
with large groups to add to the small capacity ships that usually cater
for the incentive sector. It is launching its newly acquired 811
passenger ship Black Watch, available from mid-November after a pounds
In addition to the Business and Incentive Day, there also an
Environmental Awareness Day. A new system, ECoNETT, which provides
technological environmental information to the travel and tourism
industry will be unveiled. It has been developed by the World Travel &
Tourism Council as part of its global environment management programme,
British Airways will demonstrate its electronic ticketing process as
part of the travel technology section at the event. The latest
technological innovations will be on show, such as online services and
virtual reality, which have an impact on all sectors of the travel