Appreciating the Value of Incentive Travel Planners

More and more people are considering travel planning as a strong career possibility. Since there are many who enjoy traveling and have had some success planning and executing their itineraries, they get the idea that it is something that they can do for other people as well. Of course, there’s also the attractive bonus of working on something that has their interest.

Needless to say, planning travelsfor other people is much more complicated than planning your own. It can be very frustrating to put together custom itineraries, book flights that would be most convenient, reserve accommodations that would meet the standards and needs of your clients, etc. And then there’s incentive travel.

Incentive travel planners are an entirely different breed of travel planners. They have so much more to consider when they’re dealing with a corporate client. Some are mistaken in thinking that anybody with a high level of organization skills can do the work, but a great deal of insight is necessary in planning an incentive travel program.

For instance, while event planners who are also known for being detail-oriented, highly organized, and meticulous can certainly cross over to incentive travel planning, they likely won’t be very efficient right off the bat even with their great planning chops. Trips and events are two different animals; the planning of each requires the pertinent lengthy experience and distinct flair.

There’s actually another area where you can clearly see the difference between event planning and travel planning, and that’s in compensation. Although it’s complicated to explain how the meetings and incentive industry pays since there are different levels and classifications of occupations, results from the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) survey on salary shows that incentive planners typically earn up to $110,000 USD. This is definitely more than double what an event planner in Canada receives, which is about $60,000 CAD.

Does this make sense? Does it seem fair? Here’s how 2009 Meeting + Incentive Travel Magazine’s Industry Hall of Fame Inductee Les Selby explains it. Travel planners are perceived to be more valuable than event planners because of the nature of their responsibilities.

Selby noted that when speaking about travel planning, his audience mostly consists of company presidents and chief financial officers, and conversations were about rebates earned, costs avoided, and percentage of employee compliance.

Meanwhile, when speaking about event planning, his audience is mainly made up of project budget owners, vice-presidents of Marketing, and directors of sales. Events and meetings are generally regarded as functions of business units, while travel incentives were seen as corporate directives. Events are more about the intent to buy or promote while travel incentives are a strict measurement of sales against expenditures.

It doesn’t matter that the budget for events is bigger than the travel program; the fiscal impact of the latter is spread throughout the business. In the end, importance is measured in the level of conversation and the measurement of results.

There’s definitely more depth and value to travel incentive planning than most people realize. Without a doubt, it requires special knowledge and skills, which explains the fee earned by those who perform it.

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