NOV/DEC 2012 The Magazine 3
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Member of:
The Do-It-Yourself Workbook:
The New Melting Pot of
Incentive Travel Design
By Jim Ruszala, Senior Director of Marketing, Maritz Travel
oday’s incentive travel options, choices, decisions and
subsequent experiences are much more diverse and complex
than they ever have been in the history of the industry. Diversity
in strategic objectives, stakeholders and program participants
represent three distinct category dynamics that require new
approaches to achieve steadily growing and more aggressive goals.
Take a moment and think about it from each of these three dynamics
and you’ll get the idea:
There are many potential objectives where
incentive travel strategies are adopted to help achieve an
organizational goal (i.e., building loyalty, trust and sales;
acquiring, retaining and developing talent; etc.). While some
incentive travel objectives can be complimentary to one
another, some combinations can overwhelm a participant’s
ability to successfully achieve – resulting in a lack of
engagement and true participation.
Mainly guided by individual roles and
responsibilities, we find that the diversity of stakeholders
can be at odds with one another in terms of what the
incentive travel strategy should be geared towards helping
achieve. Goals, hopes, objectives and subsequent strategic
and tactical support can be independently influenced if
there’s no clear alignment with overarching expectations.
Human Resources, Marketing, Sales, Procurement and other
departments don’t set out to conflict with one another’s
core occupational objectives, it’s more an ‘act-of-nature’ to
some degree, which, requires a higher-level perspective than
divisional, departmental or other operational segmentations.
Program Participants
There’s much more personal
value, interest, need, want and lifestyle diversity and
mix today than ever. Applying market-based and/or
demographic breakdowns alone won’t give the ‘value edge’
that organizations are looking for in helping achieve ideal
incentive travel outcomes. A better understanding of your
participants’ personal goals and values can help inform
decision-making approaches to best promote, align and
truly motivate.
Broader Optics
Connecting this melting pot of increasing diversity to improve incentive
travel performance can be achieved by expanding our perspective. For
instance, transparency of operating costs over the past several years
to heavily drive investment efficiencies has, in many cases, resulted
in varying degrees of diminishing returns. This sole focus has been
mainly on the delivery of operational elements; increased emphasis
needs to be placed on the key ‘shoulder’ areas of Design and
Measurement to more effectively inform, construct and drive increased
value returns through incentive travel practices.
Striking the right balance through design requires a deeper
understanding of market trends, best practices and individual program
participants’ personal goals, values, interests, preferences, likes
and dislikes. From kick-off communications through destination
selection and onsite experience inclusions to post program fanning of
experiences, organizations need to adopt key approaches that help
develop a program design that participants will find more meaningful,
motivational and memorable. Design has to strike the right balance
between driving investment dollar efficiencies and achieving expected
levels of performance effectiveness. Too much of one or the other
will result in disproportionate outcomes that deliver one area at the
expense of the other.
A Double Bottom Line
Incentive travel performance needs to be evaluated through a ‘double
bottom line’ approach. From a business perspective, it’s about how
efficiently and effectively costs were aligned to deliver incremental
outcomes. For program participants, it’s determining whether or not
an incentive travel opportunity is worth the added time and effort.
In addition to the reward and recognition opportunity, program
participants and sponsoring organizations achieve added individual
and business-level values. These values consist of participant
social, intellectual and personal self-worth advancements – all
significant drivers for continued organizational performance. The true
measurement of performance involves a collective approach to better
evaluate performance impact by further understanding, interpreting
and aligning both areas of business and personal participant value.
For incentive travel practices to truly deliver on core performance
goals, people-centered and cross-functional efforts need to be in
place. These efforts help socialize and clearly provide direction and
distinction on what is a primary and overarching versus a secondary
focus. Not doing so can result in falling short of achieving the true
potential value that exists for both organizations and individual
participants of incentive travel strategies.
As Senior Director of Marketing for Maritz Travel, Jim Ruszala leads
the company’s development of new and innovative strategies to help
organizations achieve better business value through their incentive travel
efforts. He is a former President of the Incentive Marketing Association’s
Incentive Travel Council.