International: Slashing incentive content could lead to the cruellest cut

Over recent weeks, I have been putting two pieces of information together. The first is the level of financial losses reported by some of the major players in the incentive travel sector. The second is the growing realisation there is a declining number of bright young minds who want to make their careers in it.

The two factors may seem unrelated, but, in reality, the second is a consequence of the first and is a threat for our whole industry.

Losses are a reflection that corporate budgets have been cut. This is one of the cycles that affects us, but still many clients want headline-grabbing destinations on a shoestring. The only way those places can be made to fit within the new budgets is to strip out content.

For example, instead of a high-impact, memorable gala dinner, a group ends up with four courses at decorated tables with a local band for dancing.

The client may be happy because the budget has been cut, but if the incentive trip doesn't deliver an exceptional experience, will the participants deliver an exceptional performance to qualify again next year?

Just as importantly, stripping out the content reduces the opportunity for creativity. Cut creativity and many people in our industry lose their justification for coping with the long hours and the pressures that are part of it. As a consequence, talented people are leaving to seek alternative challenges.

So cutting budgets has a long-term implication in reducing the number of young people making a career commitment to incentive travel, which means the industry is not regenerating itself. Look ten years down the line and where will the talent be? We all know that budgets have to be cut sometimes, but if we carry on going for style and no substance, the whole industry will suffer.

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