For many companies, planning incentive travel trips is often assigned to an internal resource who is responsible for organising details of the trip, while in some instances, the organisation will hire an incentive travel company or third-party planner to manage the travel arrangements.

Either way, it’s important for this individual or team of people to keep a few things in mind when planning a successful incentive travel trip. Here’s a snapshot of what the value chain can do to best meet travellers’ expectations.

For Henk Graaff, owner and MD of SW Africa DMC, because incentive travel is meant to reward and/or motivate staff, the experience offered has to be a positive one. “Programmes are therefore not the stock-standard programmes that ‘normal' tourists would experience.”

Graaff stresses that suppliers catering for incentive travel groups must be flexible and innovative in terms of what and how they present their products to the incentive trip organiser. It’s very important for suppliers to understand the purpose of a particular trip. This means making the supplier aware of what the participants had to do in order to qualify for their incentive trip, making it easier to shape their offerings to match the reward or prize.

David Sand, CEO of UwinIwin, believes the inbound supply chain needs to continue to invest in quality incentive education. There is a massive delivery differential between incentive clients and tourism clients, and this is often not understood by reservations, hospitality and front-line staff. Those who do understand the difference, attract the business. He points out that the incentive traveller is very demanding, has high expectations, and demands greater flexibility, creativity and freshness in handling incentive group business.

Because incentive travel groups are usually more diverse and have a variety of interests, requirements and expectations, each traveller should be made to feel as though their experience is personalised and not handled as a package deal with their fellow travellers, notes Megan Conn, Brand Manager at Bushtracks Africa. She says Bushtracks recently hosted a large incentive group from a big corporation. The travellers were from all age groups, from different departments within the company, and some were based in different offices across the country. “We created a personalised website for the group so that each traveller could book their activities and have a real say in their itinerary. Personalisation is vital, as each individual’s experience must be as authentic as possible.”  

Kwakye Donkor, CEO of Africa Tourism Partners, urges professional conference organisers to be mindful of how the broader tourism industry has changed. With everything being online, PCOs can be sure that a company has already done its homework before approaching them to assist with planning the incentive trip. “In response to this trend, the supply chain must really pull out all the stops to ensure that whatever they put together isn’t something that the client can easily access or find for themselves online. It has to be personalised. Bespoke. Tailor made.” This is especially important when it comes to price.

Service levels are critical, adds Graaff. Suppliers and service providers really do need to go the extra mile to take care of incentive groups. This could mean offering special treatment on arrival, like VIP check-ins, welcome gifts and room drops. This top-notch treatment could also take the form of including unusual meal and function venues, with surprise elements added into the programme. These made available exclusively to the incentive group make them feel special and important and to add a ‘wow’ factor to the programme.