Julie Blank on Incentive Travel

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Prevue reached out to Julie Blank, Director, Strategic Accounts, Brightspot Incentives & Events and 2020 Vice President Sponsorship – Society for Incentive Travel Excellence (SITE), Texas Chapter, for her insights about the impact COVID-19 has had on incentive travel.

Andrea Doyle (AD): Tell me about the incentive travel programs you had scheduled for this year.

Julie Blank (JB): Brightspot had 24 incentive travel programs that were scheduled to operate this spring and early summer, and 10+  scheduled for late summer/fall.

(AD): Have any postponed for later in the year or in the future?

(JB): 30 percent of our programs are currently scheduled to operate in the late fall of 2020. The rest have either pushed into the spring of 2020 or our clients have selected an alternative way to reward their qualifiers.

(AD): Do you have an international program planned? Has that been moved? To a domestic destination? Where?

(JB): Ninety percent of our overall trips were international programs and all of the programs rescheduled to operate later this year are international. All have chosen to move forward with the international destinations, assuming the reopening of borders and the lifting of travel restrictions go as planned. We haven’t had any clients replace their 2020 international programs with domestic locations, but of those who have canceled 2020 programs, quite a few that have typically been international destinations are considering domestic programs for 2021. We are looking at places like Aspen, Sedona, South Carolina, and New England. These destinations and properties are a little more unique and unexpected.

(AD): Have you replaced your incentive travel programs with merchandise, cash, or gift card rewards? Please explain.

(JB): We’ve really seen it all. Some of our clients who have furloughed employees have opted for cash payouts, many gave away travel vouchers for individual trips that can be taken when people are ready to get back out and travel, and we’ve awarded some with prize packages that allow the recipient to chose from categories like The Grill Master, The Gamer, Pamper Yourself, The Cool Parent, etc. giving the power of choice.

(AD): Are individual incentive certificates more attractive given our current environment?

(JB): Logistically they make sense. We believe that individual travel certificates are preferable over a cash payout. We want to offer unforgettable experiences and travel certificates do at least provide an experience. We like to make sure that group trips surprise and delight attendees and we lose that ability with certificates, but we still believe it’s the best alternative.

Incentive Travel

(AD): Is there anything else you can share with us about your upcoming incentive travel programs?

(JB): Communication is really key. We’ve been doing a lot of video messages that provide updates from leadership or highlight entertainers or emcees that were scheduled to be on the trip. We’ve created online experiences like providing virtual cooking and mixology classes. We’ve sent gifts and managed online gifting experiences that would have been available on the trip.  We are making sure that our clients are keeping in touch with their qualifiers and continuing to make them feel appreciated and rewarded. During difficult times, it’s even more important to show your super-sellers how much you value them!

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