Insider tips on Meetings & Incentive Travel

Business woman in conference with associates

Great news from the Incentive Travel front:  Business is booming and more and more Canadian corporations are seeing the tangible benefits of offering travel as a key incentive to their staff. There’s no question that incentive travel programs are big achievers.  They motivate, drive sales, inspire performance, help retain the best talent, create branding opportunities, expand networking with executives – and therefore grow business overall.

For some tips on how to time your incentive planning, we spoke with Ellie MacPherson, Senior Vice-President of Strategic Meetings + Incentives, which is a division of Vision Travel Solutions.  SM+i handles the travel for thousands of incentive winners per year, in groups as small as a 25-person think tank to a national program with over 4,000 travellers.

“We – and our hotel partners – have not seen such demand since 2009,” she reports.  Consequently, timing of the planning process becomes crucial.

Why?  Primarily because the time period for incentive travel is constricted by a number of factors.  Let’s do the math.

Take the first six months of the year as an example.  Subtract holidays such as school breaks, Easter, Passover, even Mother’s Day, Victoria Day and Father’s Day, and your travel window has just shrunk dramatically.  Summer months – late June through early September – are reserved for family and personal holidays, further shrinking the incentive travel window.

A late autumn/early winter travel period may yield great pricing from certain hotels/destinations but, if your incentive is based on a calendar year fiscal, advising winners ‘Congratulations!  You’re going to the Caribbean in 11 months time’ just won’t work and the time window becomes smaller still.  Finally, if your group requires extensive or complex meeting facilities, your options are now even fewer.

As a result, it’s not unrealistic to say that even with 18 months lead time, it may be challenging to accommodate a group requiring just 100 rooms.  This is why SM+i is now assisting many of its clients to develop incentive programs for 2017, 2018 and beyond.

Moral of the story?  Nowadays the early bird gets the worm – and the desired destination and hotel – when it comes to Incentive Travel.

You can reach Ellie at