Apply these basic rulesBy definition, incentive travel means going somewhere as a result of an incentive campaign. Otherwise it’s just group travel.
But how many organisers are aware of what participants have had to do to qualify for such events and does it make any difference to the delivery of the travel experience on the ground, even if some have not actually qualified?
Most industry bodies talk about incentive travel as being ‘an exceptional travel experience in return for above average performance’. So the link is certainly there with performance. But very few suppliers in the incentive travel chain are fully aware of what that performance may have been or even whether the participants even deserve to be there at all.
People are briefed that the participants are ‘top achievers’ and so have be treated exceptionally well. , Unfortunately, some of the so-called top achievers do not live up to their image when they arrive on site. Many have never travelled overseas before, never experienced paying a week’s wages for a gin & tonic in a hotel bar nor have ever come across bedroom curtains that only close with the deft use of an iPad.
Far from being high flyers, many incentive travel ‘winners’ have qualified under the most bizarre rules and, often, they do not even work for the sponsoring organisation. How can this be?
Here are some examples of recent ‘qualifiers’ for lavish incentive events paid for by well-meaning major, global organisations in 2015.
Incentive groups may include a partner who often has a decisive influence on their other half in terms of getting out of bed in the morning and working hard to qualify for the travel trip. But the partner may not be in business, may be unemployed, may be just the latest in a long line of paramours or simply be a ‘friend’ or relative. It is not unusual to be hosting the aged mother of a qualifier because the winner could not find a partner to take along.
Even if the event is for singles, on many distributor trips, the ‘winners may be back office people or unconnected business colleagues because the actual winner is too busy or too successful to attend.
Then there is the PA syndrome, where sales directors refuse to let a top salesman go on the event as it coincides with the important end of the month sales period and so they designate their own PA to attend ‘who has worked very hard this year.’
The ultimate insult to the sponsors is that cadre of qualifiers who do not even work for the organisation. Qualifiers are so successful that they are either on holiday themselves at that time or have already been to that destination, so they ‘sell’ their place to a friend. The justification is often that the sponsor is unable to provide an equivalent of the reward in cash, so if the trip is not taken, the benefit to the winner is lost.
An even worse potential problem are winners who have since left the business. This leads to several drunken dinners where a disaffected former employee is free to tell all the other poor saps how bad their organisation is while enjoying Krug champagne and a luxury suite at its expense.
So what is the answer?
This can all be fixed with It’s vital to have simple rules at the outset. For example:
• All winners must still be employees at the time of the incentive award.
• The sponsor reserves the right to refuse attendance to anyone they deem to be unrelated to the organisation or not a ‘partner’ in the accepted sense.
• Unconnected relatives cannot be substituted, however valid the reasons may be.
• Winners should not have achieved their place through fraudulent means.
• Winners must have a validated employment contract and not freelance terms.
This may all sound excessively legalistic. But the truth is sponsors have the right to know that their per head cost is being well-spent and that the suppliers who are delivering the exceptional travel experience are dealing with bona fide winners who deserve to be rewarded.