. The New Age of Incentives | Northstar Meetings Group

The New Age of Incentives

How to maximize incentive travel budgets in this value-driven era

New Age of Incentives opener

In the new post-recession age of incentives, our industry is tasked with bringing back morale while still being budget conscious. The most recent SITE (Society for Incentive Travel Excellence) Foundation survey indicated that 53 percent of planners cite price as the main cause for losing a proposal. The silver lining, however, is that there are ways to maximize today's budgets and keep incentive participants focused. Here are just a few.

Give Back
Take advantage of the cost benefits of corporate social responsibility by researching tours and group activities that could translate into tax-deductible and potentially cost-saving elements of your program. Make your teambuilding event a win-win activity by donating your group's time to a worthy cause. Not only are you offering a rewarding experience for your attendees, but you are positioning your organization as being socially conscientious.

Scrutinize Program Content
Assess where your money is being spent. The most successful events are the ones that make business personal. Once you've established what will be meaningful for the participants, you can reduce unnecessary expenditures. Also consider if you can combine the incentive reward with a business component, such as a state-of-the-industry meeting that allows your organization to kill two birds with one stone.  

Rediscover Your Own Backyard

Airfares are also on the rise, so planners need to optimize their air budgets. A great alternative to the U.S. for groups that want to go a little farther is Canada. Participants will love its beautiful natural scenery and vibrant cities. If your group longs for warmer international travel, explore destinations where the U.S. dollar value is favorable; right now, Mexico, the Caribbean, and South America provide a great ROI based on the currency exchange rate.    

Use a Cruise or All-Inclusive Resort
Cruises and all-inclusive resorts offer similar controls for budget management. According to a joint 2013 study by the SITE Foundation and IMEX, "49 to 51 percent of planners reported an increase of use of cruises and all-inclusive destinations." In fact, some cruise lines are completely all-inclusive, covering everything from cigars to private breakfasts on your stateroom balcony.

The past years have also seen an emergence of high-end all-inclusive resorts that cater to high-end clientele who want to leave their wallet at home but enjoy the same luxuries as four- and five-star resorts. These resorts have a myriad of dining options plus many activities and all-inclusive drink packages -- all of which help with controlling budgets and giving travelers a diverse range of experiences.

Timing Is Everything
Properties will offer more favorable rates if you select a pattern that does not interfere with the revenue they count on from non-group travel. Also, planning an incentive travel program a year out (or better still, two years out) will help with obtaining the best space, rates, and concessions for your organization's needs.

Kurt Paben is the president of channel and employee loyalty, U.S., at Aimia Inc.. His career spans more than 28 years in the incentive industry and includes work with many Fortune 100 clients. Paben also serves as the SITE Foundation president and currently serves on the SITE Global board of directors. Aimia Inc. is a global leader in loyalty management, employing more than 4,300 people in 20 countries worldwide.