In The Journeymasters’ first company portfolio, I wrote a poem to introduce us to the world. Imagine, a poem instead of a mission statement.
No one has ever told me why, no answer ever satisfied
this crazy, bursting, lusting thing that forces me to go away from home.
But I am Man … So I will go.
Incentive travel is creating miniature pieces of living art. Taking people out of their lifelong routine, bringing them to a foreign land and having them experience things they could never do on their own. You want a cocktail party on the Great Wall? Of course we can do that. All they have to do to go on this incredible, life changing journey is to sell more cars, or fertilizer, or carpeting than they sold last year.
That, my friends, was the beginning of the industry we have been lucky enough to start, to grow and to live our lives in.
SITE was established in 1973 primarily to announce to the Travel Industry that a new kind of traveler had arrived. This new traveler was not the heir to a famous family’s fortune, nor a harried executive traveling to a meeting. No, this new traveler was a star, a producer, one of the 20% who created 80% of the success of his or her company, a competitor who competed and won.
This new traveler was a winner, and expected to be treated as the champion he or she was. Where does an 800-pound gorilla sleep? Anywhere he or she wants to. Where does an incentive contest winner sleep? In one of the best rooms in the house. Not the minimum-rated room, not a standard room, but one of the best rooms in the house in one of the best hotels in the destination.
And, when the Travel Industry took note of the incentive winner, SITE’s purpose was accomplished. Before SITE made incentive travel an important sector, September was a low travel season. We filled up September and it is now no longer a low season. Before SITE, there was no executives in charge of incentives, today almost every travel organization – Hotels, Airlines, DMCs, CVBs, etc. – have an executive in charge of incentive groups. And we changed the term for the lowly “Ground Operator” to the respected and valued “Destination Management Company”. We have not yet convinced everyone in the industry to call our winners “Guests” instead of the dreaded “pax”, but we are working on that.
Sadly, I have detected that the objective of the incentive travel buyer has changed from buying the most unforgettable experience possible, to buying the least expensive trip available. Sorrowing, indeed.
If my observations concerning the objective of today’s incentive travel buyer is accurate … what in the world are these buyers thinking? An incentive trip is a reward for an extraordinary piece of work. The winners are successful people; most, if not all of them, can afford to travel on their own to the reward destination. If you wish to establish a tradition, and have them employing that same remarkable effort to win next year’s trip and create the same outstanding revenue and profit gains as this year, then this year’s journey must be extraordinary so they will expend the required extra effort to win again.
Your miniature piece of living art should produce an indelible impression in your winner’s hall of memories and bragging rights at your winner’s next cocktail party. If you can’t afford a party on the Great Wall of China, or an after-hours tour of the Sistine Chapel, or Her Majesty’s Cold Stream Guards band to perform at your London banquet, or any of the myriad of exclusive events that create indelible memories, my advice is to take less people, or choose a less expensive destination or travel in a lower season.
Or, forgive me for suggesting: give them an iPad, or a share of stock in AAPL, give them anything, but don’t give them an ordinary trip. The exceptional deserve the unforgettable.
Robert (Bob) Guerriero, CITE founded The Journeymasters in 1968. He was one of the first seven founders of SITE and served as the association’s first full-term president in 1974-1975, as well as the first president of the SITE Foundation. Bob earned the association’s Certified Incentive Travel Executive (CITE) designation in 1985 and is one of the distinguished few to earn the SITE Lifetime Achievement Award (2001). As the originator of 39 landmark group events, The Journeymasters has been recognized with five SITE Crystal Awards.