It’s Travel season. Results from last year’s contests are in, the registration websites are launched, tickets are booked, and guests are on their way to unforgettable experiences all over the globe. It’s pretty amazing really… Thousands of guests on sandy beaches and ski slopes, with their families on cruises or exploring cobble-stoned European streets with a loved one… We bring all of those experiences they have imagined come to life with moments they’ll remember forever. But did you know that behind every travel program are dozens of people taking care of every detail? Here’s a look at incentive travel – behind the scenes – and all of the people who contribute to the success of every program:
Incentive travel planners have one of the most challenging jobs around. They bring the client’s brand and vision to life, each program entirely unique from one before it. Meticulous and creative, they track down and coordinate everything from big name entertainment to tiny details like the way the bow is tied on the room gift. Working with a virtual army of vendors and on-site staff, they always have an eye on the VIP and guest experience and manage significant budgets, all while fending off the unavoidable challenges that arise, from snowstorms to volcanos.
When a guest calls Next Level and needs help with registration or an emergency, they reach one of the specialists. This dedicated team not only masters the intricacies of registration and air ticketing, they also provide caring support for nervous travelers and troubleshoot myriad concerns. Acting as guest advocates, they work hard to provide solutions and information that put the program winners’ minds at ease as they prepare to travel, as well as provide logistical support for programs.
Our award-winning team of designers is responsible for a vast array of communications for incentive travel programs, including video content, onsite signage, pre-trip materials, and much more. It just takes one day in our office, watching this incredible team manage the collation of literally tens of thousands of designed and personalized pieces for just one program to be impressed with the level of detail that they manage every day. The Marcom team ensures that the messaging and branding are consistent and carry through every communication, from the website to the departure notice. The Marcom team earns social media shout-outs from clients and has even inspired onsite décor decisions.
Skilled in merchandise rewards and knowledgeable about trends in everything from coffee makers to kayaks, the customer service team sources anything and everything needed for the program on-site. Their shipments to our programs can include room gifts or swizzle sticks, crystal awards or flip flops. They work with customs worldwide to make sure that the guests have a seamless gifting experience, and that anything we can dream up gets where it’s going.
Finance and Administration
It may not be as photogenic as a gala event, but contracting and accounting are incredibly important. Incentive travel programs have robust budgets and many moving parts. Keeping great relationships with our vendors and providing rapid reporting and reconciliations for our clients takes quick and accurate work on the part of our AP and AR team. With many overlapping programs, and invoices as small as an expense report for a taxi ride or as large as thousands of roomnights, their commitment to getting it done right, right now, is an important part of our service.
From onboarding new technologies, troubleshooting offsite laptops, and providing whitelisting documentation to clients, the IT team responds to a wide range of urgent requests on the fly. They make sure our planners and specialists have what they need and that our technology is a help and not a hindrance. They’re also busy year-round building and customizing sales platforms for new year programs. Never a dull moment!
And meanwhile don’t forget…
Sales and Account Management
Our sales and account management team doesn’t just “set it and forget it.” They’re often with us on site at travel programs, to lend a hand, if needed, but more importantly to work with the client and act as their representatives in the team. While the travel team is delivering on this years rewards, sales and account management will also be reviewing the goals and results of the program, rolling that into the plans for the following year.
While all that’s going on with travel programs, Marketing is hard at work creating and launching the communications plans that keep participants engaged year-over-year. Marketing the next program to all eligible participants – whether they have won this year or not - keeps the focus on the company goals without a pause and helps your team Achieve More.
When you’re working with a full-service incentive company on a travel program, the skills and contributions of the entire team is behind you. Your team is not just the planner, but Next Level teammates from across the entire organization, each making sure that their contribution fits with your vision and helps you reach your goals. On my last program, 18 teammates contributed in some way. That’s what comes with the management fee – the best efforts of an experienced, expanded team committed to the success of your program.
As Vice President of Travel & Engagement at Next Level Performance, Susan serves on the board of the Incentive Research Foundation (IRF), and chairs the IRF Research Committee. She has also served on the board of the Incentive Marketing Association (IMA) and is a past president of the Recognition Council, and a past member of the Performance Improvement Council and the Incentive and Engagement Solution Providers (IESP). She is interested in the strategies and benefits of employee engagement, incentive, and recognition programs. An avid traveler, she is also passionate about the art and science of incentive travel.