How We Revised an Incentive Travel Program After a Terrorism Threat

By: ITA Group
Travel by Design from ITA Group on a computer screen

Terrorism threats have created an environment of fear and uncertainty that has had a destabilizing effect on the hospitality and incentive industry. However, The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) recently reported that travel and tourism remains resilient as people continue traveling despite the threats to the world.

Why is that? Because the industry is responding by calling on governments to focus on security and prepare for future crises and inevitable disruptions. Companies like ITA Group continually improve the security protocols that they’ve had in place for many years to ensure the safety of their clients’ participants.

We were urgently called upon to respond to a client who had planned a top-performers’ recognition program in Paris a week after the 2016 Brussels terrorist attack. Here's how we handled the situation.

The Problem

The terrorist incident in Brussels happened just nine days prior to our client’s annual incentive trip for top-performing agents and branch managers. A years’ worth of planning, site visits and negotiations were quickly coming to an end. There was little time to spare and a critical need to react quickly to keep the 200+ participants and their guests safe and secure. Without hesitation, ITA Group met on a Sunday evening with our long-time client contact to address the pros and cons of operating the trip in Paris and evaluate safety concerns that participants would have.

Safety of participants was the top concern as was the desire to still provide meaningful acknowledgement of the contributions of top-performers.

It was paramount not to let the participants and their guests down because many had already made significant plans for child care and spousal time off from work that made it necessary to take their vacation at the time of the planned Paris trip.

The client wanted to do the right thing by his agents by extending goodwill and understanding the concerns of his participants. The situation in Brussels made participants fearful of international travel and the complexity involved in changing planned travel. Containing the budget and executing a first-class replacement option would be key in maintaining a balanced solution.

The Solution

ITA Group provided a quick-turn solution that allowed the insurance carrier to reward their top-performing agents who had earned the trip. The participant solution included our Awards Platform which featured our individual travel service, Travel by Design. This high-touch concierge service aided attendees in designing their own individual travel package to their unique specifications and needs. In addition, the Awards Platform was configured to the client’s brand, and we made special allowances for people to contribute to local charities if they so desired.

Not only did our experts in Travel by Design provide efficient and imaginative service to the agents and guests, they provided an empathetic ear to those dealing with the concern of the recent events in and around Paris.

In situations like this, safety and security is our focus, and we never lose sight of the human side of emotional connections.

It’s not only about logistics for us. It’s about connecting with people and helping them make their dreams come true—and to ensure their safety and lessen their concerns as much as possible.

With such an unexpected upheaval, it was necessary to communicate widely and deeply with attendees so they knew what to expect, how the situation was being resolved to meet their safety concerns and what options were being offered in lieu of the Paris trip. Our client wanted to carry the same high-end, exclusive and personalized message to the participants that were similar to the original travel communications. In short order, ITA Group designed a new comprehensive communication campaign including print and electronic media to ensure that every participant knew about the changes and steps to take.

The Results

Connecting on a personal level built on long-standing relationships included commiserating with our client and participants, responding quickly to the crisis and being able to deliver a reasonable solution in short time. This was a key point in helping our client resolve a very frightening situation.

Eligible agents were given points proportionate to the value of the travel award that they could use to book individual travel or redeem for merchandise of their choice. Results included:

  • 100% client satisfaction
  • 100% Net Promoter Score
  • 98% redemption
    • 76% Travel by Design and 24% Merchandise
    • Cash added: 5.5% of total points deposited
  • Four participants chose to transfer some or all of their points to fellow team members
  • Customer Satisfaction Measurement Score: 100% completed by Rob Friedman, Vice President of Marketing

Client Experience

“Pete and Anna are the gold standard in my book and always great to work with. When we canceled Paris and switched to Travel by Design, I was reminded of how extensive and capable the ITA Group staff is. The change was executed quickly and accurately with the ITA Group level of professionalism. In the customer’s eyes, this huge job seemed like something you do every day. I can’t imagine facing a similar situation without a travel partner like ITA Group. Awesome job!”

We run multiple programs with EMC Insurance. Check out a testimonial from Rob Friedman, Vice President of Marketing, on what it's like to have a partnership with ITA Group.

Participant Experience

Participant Quotes

“The trip we were scheduled to take was cancelled approximately a week and a half before we were to leave. Due to my wife's work schedule we either had to take a trip during that time or possibly have to wait until later in the year. Our representative asked what she could do to make the time scheduled off work and put a few options together. Within a few hours we had a trip planned. Thank you for all you did.” —Program Participant

“We got back from France this weekend and wanted to let you know that we had an absolutely wonderful time. We truly appreciate all your time and assistance to put this together. It was all fantastic and went extremely smoothly, no hitches and no security worries. Merci Beaucoup.” —Program Participant

Ensuring Safe and Secure Experiences for Your Organization

Is risk management on your radar? Today, risk management is a critical component of any group travel and event strategy. Learn strategies and risk assessment considerations to make sure your next event or incentive travel program is safe and secure in our ebook, Ensuring Safe and Secure Experiences.

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