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December 01, 2001
Meetings & Conventions: Incentive News

FIRMS SWITCH TO REGIONAL TRAVEL, MERCHANDISE ‘Safer’ Rewards Gain Favor
Mark Bondy
Mark Bondy While a number of companies canceled incentive programs immediately after Sept. 11, many chose to postpone programs until the first quarter of 2002 or modify the rewards to what they considered safer alternatives.

One client switched a cruise reward from the Mediterranean to the Caribbean, according to Mark Bondy, a partner in Victor Associates, an incentive firm based in Traverse City, Mich. Another client, an insurance company that typically holds incentive programs outside the United States, asked Bondy’s firm to develop a program in a destination participants could drive to. Florida was the ultimate choice.

“We had high cancellation rates for programs scheduled for September, October and November,” said Jeff Reinberg, president and CEO of Fenton, Mo.-based Maritz Travel Company. But for programs that did go ahead and even those postponed until the first quarter of 2002 Reinberg saw a significant shift from international to domestic destinations.

Some of Maritz’s clients canceled travel altogether and gave program winners high-end merchandise instead. “Initially, it was a knee-jerk reaction to Sept. 11,” Reinberg said. “Will it have a permanent effect on program rewards in the future? I think the answer is ‘yes.’”

“Some organizations will use high-end watches, crystal and electronics for incentive programs, rather than travel,” said Karen Rank, executive director of the Naperville, Ill.-based Incentive Marketing Association, whose members are chiefly incentive firms and suppliers to merchandise programs. The association saw some new business after Sept. 11, much of it from canceled European incentive trips, she said.

Rank said that the switches were based on the perception of travel at this point in time but are not likely to reflect a permanent shift from travel to merchandise.

• Edited by Lisa Grimaldi

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