Your Guide to Working with Incentive Travel Companies

Your Guide to Working with Incentive Travel Companies
Contents

What is incentive travel?

Incentive travel is usually a group trip top-performers take with their colleagues or an individual trip they take with their families. While these incentive trips involve some professional development activities, they’re mostly meant to provide hard-working team members with well-deserved downtime. 

Employers invest in corporate incentive travel programs because they’re very effective performance motivators. Creating an incentive travel program involves choosing reward destinations, establishing benchmarks employees have to meet to qualify for a trip, creating itineraries, planning logistics, and measuring the ROI of the incentive.

What is an incentive travel company?

An incentive travel company is a corporate travel agency, event and meeting organizer, or corporate incentive company that specializes in planning and executing incentive travel trips. 

Some agencies offer services that cover the whole scope of incentive travel: from tracking who is on their way to earning the reward, to planning travel logistics, and collecting trip feedback. Others offer services focused solely on coordinating and managing travel.

Incentive travel companies can work as strategic partners to your in-house corporate travel management team or as an outsourced team that provides turn-key solutions so your team doesn’t have to lift a finger. 

Incentive travel companies are different from traditional travel agents and agencies in a few ways. First, corporate travel agencies typically focus on individual travel or travel for small groups. Incentive travel agencies are experts in planning large scale corporate group travel, which is typically the format that incentive travel is executed in.

What are the pros and cons of incentive travel planners?

The benefits of working with incentive travel planners include destination knowledge and expertise, time and cost savings, and exclusive experiences. The downsides include losing some control of the planning process, working with a vendor that doesn’t understand your business as well as internal trip planners would, and a risk of extra costs. Here’s a closer look at these pros and cons of engaging incentive travel planners.

Pros on incentive travel planners

These are some of the ways in which working with travel planners is beneficial.

Expertise

Incentive travel planners do travel planning for a living, which makes them experts in both logistics and incentives. Working with professionals mitigates risk and saves your company precious time. 

Look for corporate travel agents who have a Certified Incentive Travel Professionals (CITP) certification to ensure you’re working with a team that understands organizational behavior and has travel expertise.

Substantial cost savings

Working with professionals can save you a great deal of cash. When companies plan their own incentive travel, they end up spending $8.1k per traveler on average. When they work with agents that specialize in incentive travel, the average cost per person is just under $5.2k.

A savings of about $3k per traveler equals $300k in savings for an annual incentive trip for 100 top-performers. That’s money you can put towards opening a new office, hiring a new team or executive, or developing a new product.

Why does incentive travel cost so much less when it’s done through an agency? Agents have established relationships with vendors that lead to discounts. Plus, because their focus is on planning incentive travel, they’re quite efficient at what they do.

Exclusive opportunities

Years of experience, familiarity with a destination, and thousands of relationships mean that incentive travel agents can score your company exclusive opportunities. With an ear to the ground and longstanding relationships with locals, agents can secure experiences that you can’t find anywhere else.

Destination knowledge

Part of what makes corporate incentive travel so appealing is the aspect of exclusivity. Many incentive trip earners are well-traveled and have already been to tried-and-true destinations. It will take more than a trip to New York City, Paris, or Hawaii to inspire their best work. 

Incentive travel agencies know about under-the-radar destinations that can motivate performance. Instead of Napa, an agency will recommend Portugal’s Douro Valley. Montenegro instead of Croatia for tourist-free Adriatic pleasure. Or Bora Bora instead of Bali for an exotic destination.

Turn-key solutions

Incentive travel agencies can provide full-service solutions so you don’t have to worry about a single aspect of the travel. You can forget about flight cancellations, visas, and vaccinations, and focus on implementing other initiatives.

Cons of incentive travel planners

Take these downsides of working with incentive travel agencies into consideration before partnering up.

Less control

By working with incentive travel planners, you will lose some control over the planning process. To mitigate this, it’s important to find travel agencies that will do as much or as little as you’re comfortable with. Be clear about your needs and expectations.

Less knowledge about your company’s needs

Incentive travel agencies won’t understand your company as well as an internal travel planner would. Ameliorate this concern by sharing special considerations your agents should take into account when crafting your travel program.

Potentially an extra cost

While companies typically save about $3k per traveler when working with incentive travel planners, it’s important to make sure you’re getting the best deal. Get several quotes and carefully review them to ensure you’re getting the most bang for your buck and aren’t agreeing to pricing models that don’t provide value. 

Top corporate incentive travel agencies

Recommendations make the search for an incentive travel agency much easier. These five agencies work with companies of all kinds:

  • First Incentive Travel
  • ITA Group
  • BI Worldwide
  • Maritz Global Events
  • Brightspot Incentives & Events

First Incentive Travel 

First Incentive Travel has 30 years of experience planning incentive travel, corporate retreats, and more. While most other agencies on this list focus on a whole umbrella of corporate incentive programs, incentive travel is this agency’s sole focus. Their areas of expertise are Mexico and the Caribbean. They offer a full range of services from ideation to execution. Plus, their multilingual team offers 24/7 onsite support to its clients. 

First Incentive Travel is focused on COVID-19 safety during travel and thus currently offers both virtual and in-person activities. The charity-focused agency donates 1% of its revenue to helping children in Haiti. Their current and previous clients include IBM, BMW, Lilly, and Pfizer.

ITA Group 

ITA Group offers a range of employee motivation incentives, including travel. The company’s full-service engagement includes program ideation and announcement, employee engagement, and ROI measurement. They currently provide COVID-19 mitigation options, like individual travel alternatives to group travel.

In their 55 years of experience, they’ve supported a number of charitable organizations and worked with clients like Siemens, McAfee, and T-Mobile.

BI Worldwide

BI Worldwide is an employee engagement and rewards company that offers group and individual travel services. They have 25 global offices and work with companies like Dairy Queen, Kawasaki, and Air France.

Maritz Global Events

As their name suggests, Maritz specializes in events, and incentive travel is just one piece of the pie. The agency relies on 60 years of experience and psychology to create experiences travelers won’t forget. They have relationships with top vendors around the world, like Hyatt and Marriott, to help pass savings on to your company. 

Their clients include Fortune 500 companies, financial services providers, petroleum companies, and others.

Brightspot Incentives & Events

Brightspot provides an array of group and individual incentive travel solutions that include 24/7 on-site support. Their team is always staying up-to-date on the latest hot destinations. For example, they’re recommending Portugal, Ireland, and Italy’s Umbria and Puglia as top post-pandemic travel destinations. Their website even has sample itineraries you can explore to inspire your company’s next incentive trip.  

Brightspot Incentives & Events focuses on creating custom, exclusive experiences your employees won’t be able to arrange for themselves. They’ve worked with the likes of Verizon, Dr. Pepper, Starz, and FedEx.

What does it cost to work with an incentive travel company?

Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all number when it comes to how incentive travel companies charge for their services. Pricing can vary greatly, but a good agency will create a pricing model that works for your accounting processes and schedules. 

Here are examples of different pricing models used by corporate incentive travel agencies, according to Brightspot Incentives & Events:

  • Percentage-based fee: Expect to pay a fee equivalent to 15-20% of total program costs.
  • Hourly rate: Expect a range from $50 to $150 per hour.
  • Per employee-model: The average cost per person when working with an agency is $5.2k.
  • Fixed cost: A fixed cost will be based on a number of factors, including trip size, destination, meals, types of lodgings, and more. 

Get several quotes to ensure you’re receiving the best deal. You can also compare the costs of an incentive travel company to the costs associated with doing it in-house. Consider the fees associated with hiring full-time or part-time corporate travel managers and paying for airline tickets, ground transportation, business hotels, activities, insurance, cancellation fees, meals, tips, gifts, and prizes.

The bottom line: Working with an incentive travel agency can make a world of difference

You have many options when creating your company’s incentive travel program. If you’re not able to take on bookings, logistics, and planning in-house, or want to save time and money on the trip, hiring an incentive travel agency can help you achieve those goals. 

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About the Author: Ana Cvetkovic
Ana Cvetkovic is a freelance writer for Lola.com. She is also the CEO of BLOOM Digital Marketing, a creative marketing agency that specializes in creating demand generation content for SaaS companies in the hospitality and travel industries.