INCENTIVE TRAVEL: All the world’s a stage

Incentive travel is transforming as businesses seek exotic and original locations in which to build corporate spirit.

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

November 12-14.

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

and amalgamate.

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

the industry.

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.

Travel guides

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.

Exhibiting skills

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

to buyers.

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

individual clients.

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

3m refurbishment.

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,

Green Globe.

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



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