TOURISM MATTERS: Incentive travel could boost arrivals
One of the first and largest groups I brought to Barbados was back in the 1970s. Seventy-two people in total, which included salesmen, their partners, distributors and the company’s senior management. While the firm, Cavalier Caravans, was headquartered in Sweden, it had a substantial manufacturing plant in the Eastern English port town of Felixstowe, which was at the time growing into one of the largest container ports in the world.
The company found itself in a situation where both production and sales were concentrated into particular months and they desperately wanted to try and level the disparity, allowing better control of manufacturing unit costs.
It was easy to identify the month of September, for all sorts of reasons, as being the month that stood as recording the least number of sales and smallest number of caravans actually being built. We sat down and devised a simple incentive scheme, that if each salesperson exceeded their annual sales target and which were invoiced in that month, they would win a 10 day nine night holiday for two people to Barbados.
To say it was a resounding success is a huge understatement. I quickly learned that travel and experience was a far greater motivation than taxable pay. When implemented successfully, incentive travel can be a powerful influence of productivity, profitability and loyalty.
Hotel and airline choice was critical. We had a very tight budget but the product had to be presented as a quality offering with little or no room for errors. It was vital that every person who won this coveted prize return to echo their enjoyment over and over to friends, family, the few non qualifying colleagues and – just as vital – competing brands of other caravan manufacturers.
Cavalier already had an excellent reputation for quality in the marketplace, but this promotion gave them a huge competitive advantage. The following year not a single distributor or salesperson would ignore the challenge to win their holiday in the sun.
During their stay at Southern Palms Beach Club, we organised a number of special experiences including a mini moke safari, chartering the Jolly Roger and exclusively booking a leading restaurant for the night. Our tour company in the United Kingdom went on to specialise initially in incentive and motivational travel, with a client base that included companies as diverse as McDonalds and Dutch electronics giant Philips.
While the past economic challenges and tax changes have, to a certain degree, stifled this way of rewarding performing employees, and key sales personnel, I firmly believe this key niche market is just one of the many ways we can currently grow our arrival numbers. And it’s still very big business. In fact, a leading incentive travel trade association quotes a revenue earning figure of $76.9 billion annually in the United States alone.
Just imagine if we could tap just an additional one per cent of that spending with the added bonus that motivational travel is not concentrated in the peak winter months. As the newly formed Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. finds its new direction, this niche might be one that attracts extra attention.
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