Kathy Roche is manager of meeting and conference planning for Western & Southern Financial Group, and also serves on the board of directors of Financial & Insurance Conference Planners http://www.ficpnet.com/ (FICO). She shared her thoughts on what’s in store for the industry in 2014.
Q: What’s trending for 2014 incentive programs?
A: Family programs are becoming popular. With our producers getting younger and having less time for family travel, they really want to spend more time with their children.
Many of our attendees are upgrading their accommodations to two- and three-bedroom suites and are taking advantage of the base incentive program to enhance their time together. We are including more interactive indoor and outdoor games to meet this demand so kids can challenge their parents and enjoy quality time together.
Q: How are cost-conscious planners getting the most ROI in their incentive programs?
A: We are trending toward cash or credit card stipends to manage incentive program budgets. This way, attendees can enjoy a unique and memorable lunch or dinner in the destination, but a per person stipend helps to control spending.
Q: Have the expectations of “luxury” incentives changed over the last year?
A: Our high-end producers are accustomed to being housed in luxury resorts. What has changed over the past year is providing more leisure or quality time to spend with their guest, versus a lot of structure to the program. We typically offer a welcome and farewell event, and are moving away from scheduling events every evening on property.
It also allows attendees to see more of the destination at their own pace. Whether a relaxing day at the beach or a full-day tour of an island, leisure time is valuable and can be extremely rewarding.
Q: What role does food & beverage play in incentive programs?
A: Due to the interest level of our attendees, we are working more closely with top chefs to create unique menus. It’s fun and entertaining to engage the chefs in our events and to highlight local ingredients.
Many chefs are moving toward organic menu planning, which meets requests for healthy and tasteful meals. This allows us to be more creative and authentic with each menu and offer items that our attendees would not normally experience on their own.
We offer many culinary classes on activity days, with terrific feedback. Also, smaller groups love the idea of actually enjoying a meal in the chef’s kitchen – a unique and memorable event.