TAKEAWAYS AND TIPS
The travel award itself makes up the majority of an
incentive program budget. This covers transportation,
accommodations, food and beverages, activities,
events, entertainment, gifts and amenities, any meal
allowances, fees, gratuities and taxes. To make the
most of this portion of your budget, follow the
Consider an all-inclusive resort. An all-inclusive
can be ideal, especially if the budget is pretty fixed:
“The concept is still very attractive with its ease of
budgeting—no hidden fees or surprises added to
the budget,” says Castleberry.
Instead of sponsored activities on-site or off, add
free time for attendees to enjoy at their leisure. Meal
allowances are typically provided for most of the
non-sponsored dining functions.
Collaborate with the chef at the hotel or resort.
Your goal is to find fresh, local ingredients and plan
menus for a price you are able to pay, or piggyback
with another group’s F&B function.
Ask for concessions. Jodie Wagner, director of
sourcing and design for the travel division at New
York City-based Madison, has a list of concessions
that she uses on a client’s behalf, including one
complimentary room per 40, upgraded room types
based on group rate, and complimentary Wi-Fi in
the sleeping rooms and meeting space.
Don’t automatically accept the property’s in-house vendors. That’s the advice from MFactor’s
Renee Robertson. “We always negotiate a clause
making sure we’re happy to get a proposal from the
in-house this, that or the other. But we want to have
the right to use somebody else if that somebody else
is cheaper or better.”
Partner with reputable vendors and suppliers.
They can use their contacts, experience and business
to cut deals and provide access to places you may not
be able to on your own.
Put your heads together. Brainstorm with your team
to come up with creative ideas that are inexpensive or
cost-effective. “Sometimes you underestimate what
your co-workers and other people might know,” says
Think locally. For international programs, localize as
much as you can, advises Andjela Kessler, president,
Incentive Travel & Meetings in Atlanta. “Ordering an
American-style menu may cost you more than local
specialties,” she says. “Buying domestic air from a
local airline, rather than including it in your overseas
ticket, will save you money.”
Seek out a DMC. When sourcing European
destinations, consult with a preferred DMC for
their offerings. “Many offer set programs with
many inclusions for a fixed cost such as hotel
accommodations, welcome and farewell dinners,
daytime group activities and airport transfers,” says
Spear One’s Genny Castleberry.
Use a broker. Bear in mind the extra costs and extra
time involved in international shipping of program
material, room gifts, giveaways and anything else.
Using a broker can be costly but it’s a must, says
Reclaim the VAT. “When set up properly, it can save
10 to 15 percent of a program’s land cost, depending
on that country’s specific laws,” says United
Incentives’ Jeff Broudy. “Sending a client a big check
six months after a program is always a good thing.”
Maralynn Adams of The Corporate Event Group touts
the VAT exemption, too: “One of my groups goes to
Mexico yearly, and as long as we hold one two-hour
meeting during the program, we’re able to secure
an 11 percent credit back to the master account.
Attendees are open to the experience that helps their
company save money and that can be spent on them
in other ways.”
How have 2015 incentive travel award
budgets changed from last year’s?
Increased by 1% to 4% in 2015: 14.36%
Increased by 5% to 15% in 2015: 16.57%
Increased by 16% to 25% in 2015: 6.08%
Increased by 26% to 50% in 2015: 0.55%
Increased by more than 50% in 2015: 2.21%
No change: 46.41%
Decreased by 1% to 4% in 2015: 7.73%
Decreased by 5% to 15% in 2015: 3.31%
Decreased by 16% to 25% in 2015: 1.66%
Decreased by 26% to 50% in 2015: 0.55%
Decreased by more than 50% in 2015: 0.55%