Our team of editors walked the floor at the 28th Annual Incentive Travel & Meeting Executives Show, held in Chicago in October. Here's a sampling of what we found new and noteworthy.
- You Pay Only If It Works
Salesdriver.com Creates Online Contests If you want a quick sales boost, log on to Salesdriver.com's Web site and you can create an incentive contest lickety-split. There's no upfront cost - and if the contest doesn't motivate your sales force, there's no cost at all. You pay only when salespeople meet their goals and earn their rewards.
The setup is simple: Log on to Salesdriver.com, set the targets and the rewards, your salespeople get e-mail announcements, they log on to the site to get all the details, and they're off and running. Reaching their goals earns them "DriverDollars," which they can spend online when the contest closes. They'll browse the Salesdriver.com catalog, which contains more than 1,500 items, from a Palm-Pilot in the electronics section to a Caribbean island rental in the extreme rewards section. Shipping, handling, and taxes are included in each item's DriverDollar price.
"Our service is a way to quickly build a program when a sales leader needs to attack a particular sales goal - a particular number or product mix - over a quarter or six months," explains Mark Sullivan, vice president of sales at the Maynard, Mass.-based company. Salesdriver.com counts at least two major insurers among its customers. Both of those companies created contests for agents in a single region who met specific goals over a 13-week period. There were some twists: For example, the top agent at the end of one contest got a bonus - but, if an agent hit a certain sales target before the end of the contest, that person was automatically designated the top agent. This allowed the contest manager to reach his targets "sooner rather than later," Sullivan notes.
Sales executives running large contests or wanting personal consultation on their programs can buy the $499 service package, which also provides a more customized look to the contest site. Salesdriver.com's primary revenue source is a markup on the prizes. The site had its worldwide launch in March and has created more than 450 programs for 300 companies.
- The U.K. Online
venuedirectory.com: Simplicity Itself If you're looking for a meeting site in the U.K. or Ireland but you don't need a primer on meeting planning or a chat with other Web surfers or any other flashing, spinning distraction, venuedirectory.com is your kind of Web site.
With a name that may be the only one in the online meeting planning arena that actually explains what the site offers, venuedirectory.com has a user-friendly interface for site searches, the ability to e-mail or fax RFPs to up to 50 hotels, and, well, that's it. There aren't even any banner ads.
The company plans to expand its directory to include properties in North America. In the meantime, if you're looking to meet across the pond, this site, which launched back in 1994, should be your first stop online.
- Focus on Behaviors, Not Rewards
Motivation Online: Long-Term Growth Motivation Online (www.motivationonline.com) describes itself as being in the "behavior business." That's because this online performance improvement and rewards system was built from a foundation of behavioral principles with the goal of driving sustained, long-term growth.
Here's how it works: Companies get customized home pages. Managers work closely with Motivation Online to determine specific milestones or behaviors that need to be achieved. Employees earn points for each "behavior," rather than for overall division or corporate goals, all of which are listed on the site. Individual employees' progress can also be downloaded into reports that managers can use for performance analysis and reviews.
One client used Motivation Online to teach customer service representatives - who were not trained in sales - to up-sell and cross-sell additional services. The result? A 20 percent increase in sales and a 40 percent increase in customer satisfaction in a three-month period, according to Eric Webb, Motivation Online's vice president of marketing.
After an individual's goals are met, the reward delivery side of the site kicks in. Employees can claim prizes for points earned, ranging from DVD players to cinema tickets, through Motivation Online's 40 redemption partners. A bonus: Winners click right through to the partners' actual Web sites (Sharper Image or Bose, for example), and can use their points to take advantage of any sales or promotions being held by the individual manufacturers.
- Sea Island Hideaway
The Cloister Targets Incentives Opened in 1928, The Cloister at Sea Island, Ga., has remained just off the national incentive travel radar screen. Now, with a new associate director of sales, Kevin Rosa, dedicated to the corporate and incentive market, and a new luxury property, The Lodge at Sea Island Golf Club, under development, The Cloister is destined to get some well-deserved attention.
The historic 286-room resort accommodates meetings in its 20,000 square feet of meeting space, including The Plantation Center, a dedicated meeting facility with a divisible 11,000-square-foot ballroom.
Sea Island is flanked by the Atlantic Ocean on one side and salt marshes leading to St. Simons Island on the other. The island is halfway between Savannah, Ga., and Jacksonville, Fla., and is a one-hour drive from each city's airport.
Coming next February will be The Cloister's crown jewel, The Lodge at Sea Island Golf Club. The Lodge will open with 40 rooms and 24-hour butler service. Sea Island Golf Club has 54 holes of golf, including the 18-hole Plantation Course, opened in October 1998 after an extensive redesign by Rees Jones; and the 18-hole Seaside Course, reconfigured by Tom Fazio and reopened this past October. Slated to reopen next August is the 18-hole Retreat Course, being renovated by Davis Love III.
- Afficient Is Efficient
Event Reg Firm Offers Quick Turnaround Afficient, a new online event registration application service provider, offers event organizers a "hassle-free registration service," says Laura Fischer, marketing manager. Founded as an online service for registering athletes for sporting events, Afficient charges a fee per credit-card transaction (for event registration) and small setup fees if an organization needs a Web site for the event. "Our service is seamless and in the background," says Fischer. "We offer confidentiality, security, and customer support, including quick response time." For Ernst & Young, for example, Afficient developed an event portal, assisted in Web design, and developed an online registration system for a seminar just 30 days away. For more information, visit www.Afficient.com.
- Royalty, Celebrity, Functionality
Monaco's Grimaldi Forum Opens Now, the destination that has everything for incentives - beautiful weather, fascinating history, glamorous hotels, a passion for the arts - has added a facility capable of handling the most sophisticated meeting needs.
Grimaldi Forum hosted its first major conference this fall. The Forum offers 87,900 square feet of exhibit halls, meeting space for up to 800 guests, and banquet facilities for up to 2,500 diners. A highlight of the building, whose abundant use of glass lets in lots of daylight, is the 1,900-seat auditorium. Because of the new space, "cultural activity is increasing tremendously," says Dario dell'Antonia, president of the Monaco Government Tourist and Convention Authority.
By next June, Monaco's new train station will welcome TGV service - trains that make the trip from Paris in five-and-a-half hours.
- Coming Soon
Dot-Com Targets Small Meetings MeetingXpress (www.meetingxpress.com) aims to distinguish itself in the crowded online meeting planning space by narrowing its focus. Its concept is the same as many other dot-coms - a Web site where planners can search a database of meeting properties and send RFPs. However, Meeting-Xpress bills itself as the "small meeting solution," to be used for meetings of 100 rooms or fewer. Further, its database will not be populated with every meeting property it can find, but rather with select meeting properties from 50 U.S. cities. Each city will be represented by several properties in each of three tiers (three-, four-, and five-star), for a maximum of 30 properties per city. Properties will pay for their listings, but the main source of revenue for Meeting-Xpress will be from commissions on the business it books. For the present time, that commission will be set at 5 percent, according to Eric Rosenberg, director of business development-technology for the Southfield, Mich.-based company.
Finally, the company will work with its "preferred network" of hotels to create Complete Meeting Packages for small meetings, similar to the all-inclusive pricing packages available at conference centers. The site will begin beta testing in January, with its general release date set for March.
- Life in the Fast Lane
Chicago, Italian-Style This year's most stylish respite from the IT&ME show floor: whirlwind Chicago tours in chauffeur-driven Ferraris.
Newtours, a Florence, Italy-based, held drawings for the chance to win a spin. "We wanted to demonstrate that we know what the word `incentive' means," says Newtours CEO Giuseppe Lepri. "Ferraris have beautiful architecture and a lot of style, just like the city of Chicago."
In Italy, Newtours can give incentive attendees driving lessons and then send them off in Ferraris to tour the Italian countryside. "It took some doing, but we now have 40 Ferraris at our disposal," notes Lepri. "We design different itineraries, including visits to a Ferrari factory."
Newtours is a member of Global Events Partners (www.globaleventspartners.com), a growing consortium of more than 40 domestic and international DMCs.
- First Incentive Director Named
Safari Operator UTc on Incentive Scene For the first time in its 53-year history, African safari operator United Touring Co. (www.unitedtouring.com) has an incentive sales and marketing presence in the U.S. and Canada. Kevin Forde, formerly national incentive sales manager, USA, for Swissair/Sabena, assumed his new position as director, incentive sales, for UTc just a few days before traveling to IT&ME in early October to represent the company.
"UTc is well known in all market segments except incentives," notes Forde, "but we have the facilities, knowledge, and buying power to compete in the marketplace." UTc's network of offices in South and East Africa is staffed by more than 2,200 travel professionals. It also owns its own vehicles, manages some of the most exclusive private game reserves in Africa, and runs its own river craft.
"I have a passion for this region," says Forde. "Sometimes we forget that Africa is a major world player."
Forde will also represent Dubai, where UTc's owners are based. "Dubai has been a popular destination for European incentives for years," he says, "and it's starting to catch on with U.S.-based groups. Where else can you play golf in the sand at midnight?"
Ever hear your qualifiers lament what they spent on shopping during an incentive trip? American Express Incentive Services offers a way to remove that guilt and add a twist to a group incentive: a shop-around. Plan a reception at a mall, transport qualifiers there in limos, and then turn them loose with pre-set AEIS reward cards.
The cards in the AEIS portfolio need not be seen as replacements for group travel, says Darryl Hutson, CEO of the Fenton, Mo.-based company. "It's not an either/or situation. The cards enhance an already wonderful experience by offering guilt-free shopping," he says. Another option for a trip add-on is the Be My Guest card, which you can program to be accepted at specific restaurants or anywhere that takes American Express cards. Send winners off on a dine-around and let them choose their own restaurants and companions.
Finally, the Fill It Up card gives attendees who rent cars during the incentive program one less expense to worry about. The cards work at any gas station that takes American Express.
Also new from AEIS is its Web site (www.aeis.com), remarkable for its focus on education, not sales. Click on The Basics and you're taken through a 10-step process for creating an incentive program, from identifying your objectives and budget to evaluating your results. "The primary purpose of the site is to provide information," explains AEIS spokesperson Phyllis Harris. "We believe that the more people know about the science of incentives, the more likely they will be to use them."
Our Lucaya, the Caribbean's newest destination resort, which opens in December on Grand Bahama Island, promises each and every guest an individualized experience.
Formerly The Lucayan Resort at Grand Bahama Island, the 1,350 guest rooms and suites have been transformed into a $400 million development whose theme makes the most of Grand Bahama's people and colorful culture. It promises to engage all of a guest's senses by finding out what each most wants to do, whether on a vacation or incentive trip. Perhaps it's jamming with local musicians? Cooking dinner with a five-star chef? Being left alone on your palm-strung hammock along a seven-and-a-half acre ribbon of white-sand beach? Or being one of the few lucky couples to earn a sunset dinner at the top of a lighthouse?
Leave it up to one of the resort's "experience managers," whose only goal is to find out what will make your stay so special that you'll leave refreshed and energized. Some options: First, put the kids in Camp Lucaya, billed as the only interactive kids' camp in the Caribbean. Then - golf on two courses or take a lesson at the Butch Harmon School of Golf; swim in the ocean or in three themed pools; visit the Senses Spa or work out at the fitness center, where your personal trainer will tailor your take-home program; or gamble at the casino (opening next spring). Eat and drink in eight restaurants, four cafes, and three bars; and meet in Our Lucaya's 90,000 square feet of meeting space. You'll find all this just 55 miles east of Miami, a mere 35-minute flight from Miami International Airport.