Incentive Travel Q&A: Kelli Livers, FICP

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Prevue asked Kelli Livers director of travel & administrative services for FICP for her thoughts on incentive travel.

Q: What types of destination experiences are most popular for incentive travel programs in 2013?

A: This can vary based on the demographics of the group, history, and of course the always noted “budget.” Many responses are geared around the uniqueness of the destination, but in my opinion, you have to look at the total experience. We like to mix up the destinations—from the beach to the mountains—allowing our qualifiers to experience different cultures and areas of the country. Being able to expose our qualifiers to a new experience that includes local culture, history, climates, landscapes and cuisines is a great thing.

Q: How is the definition of “wow” experiences evolving for incentive travel planners?

A: We and our hospitality partners continue to raise this bar. We find the location, venue and entertainment all specific to a destination and create an experience that the qualifiers are unable to create or produce on their own.

Staying engaged with your colleagues, peers and suppliers is critical. Networking and sharing ideas can spark creativity to help us all elevate our programs.

We do, however, want to ensure that “wow” factors are in line with our own corporate guidelines based on spend thresholds, reporting and risk management.

Q: How are destination spas and group spa programs evolving in 2013?

A: I have seen a consistent increase in spa usage over the last three years. The spa is now considered a “must have” and is typically used by half the group during their stay.

The expectation is also for the “full” spa experience. No longer is a small changing room, then straight to a treatment room, considered a spa. They expect the plush robe, aroma therapy sounds and smells, as well as a lush relaxation room with exotic teas, dried fruits and a warm blanket.

Q: Are more families traveling on incentive travel programs in 2013?

A: We have moved away from family programs. From 2000–2005 there was a much larger trend to incorporate family programs through buy-in programs and/or additional qualifying requirements for guests. Qualifiers had a difficult time understanding the cost behind some of the basic items offered at their incentive contest (e.g. breakfast buffets, evening events and activity costs).

It also cost the company extra to add the staff required to manage the increased attendee head counts as well as staffing required for events that were not appropriate for children (e.g. award banquets).