Monday, November 10, 2014

Food for Jet Lag

In case you missed it, over the summer The Research Institute for Time Studies at Yamaguchi University in Japan released a study detailing how increases in insulin levels in mice affect certain circadian rhythms. There are many facets to this research but one of the major take-aways they have given us is a guide for how to help fend off jet lag!

It basically boils down to eating carbs at certain times depending on the direction you are flying:

- If you are going east- eat a pasta dinner before your flight.
- Going westward? Try to carbo-loaded breakfast.

Want more info? Here are articles in the New Scientist and the Huffington Post.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Windowless Airplanes

To some it may seem fascinating, to others, petrifying, but the Centre for Process Innovation is working on a windowless airplane that could be in production in the next decade. Despite the name, that doesn't mean a steel box without any views of the outside. It's a plane that is made up of smartscreen panels that transform the entire wall into a giant window. Wow.

Not only would this offer passengers an unparalleled view while flying but would also reduce the weight of an aircraft.  This would lessen the amount of fuel needed to fly thereby reducing costs and airfare (hopefully).

I can hear the collective shrieks of nervous flyers everywhere. 

- Anjee

Monday, October 20, 2014

Startup Notes

Startup Notes is a great website featuring "doodle notes of the most actionable advice" from noteworthy entrepreneurs such as the founders of Instagram, Groupon and LinkedIn. It's a fun and interesting way to read about their techniques for success!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Alternative Travel Becoming a Business Trend?

Until recently, couch-surfing, ride-sharing and no-frills airlines used to be relegated to college students on their first solo vacation without mommy and daddy. Even a decade ago, most travelers wouldn't have even considered ride-sharing, let alone staying at a stranger's house. But with the overwhelming success of companies like Airbnb and Uber, we are seeing a shift towards alternative- and often cheaper- travel alternatives for mainstream America.

This trend is starting to impact the business traveler as well. As the population begins to "turn over", Millennials have greater influence over decisions in the workplace. Just as Gen X's dress and attitude influenced 90's offices towards a more casual environment, the Gen Y notion of collaborative thinking and sharing is changing how business is done- extending right down to their business travel preferences.

M&C's Michael Shapiro recently wrote a blog titled Coming to Terms with Airbnb about how this trend is beginning to affect the convention and group travel sphere in terms of room blocks and attrition. Some informal surveying found that conventions in the San Francisco area are seeing a decline in the amount of rooms being used in the room block, yet overall attendance numbers are up. It's a fascinating read as he explores the broader implications of this trend such as attendee tracking, safety issues and potential convention host liability. Plus, a side bar discusses the fact that the legality of Airbnb and Uber is in litigation in some states and how that might ultimately change their influence.

I don't think we will be seeing sites like Airbnb and Uber putting hotels and transportation companies out of business just yet but the trend is definitely picking up speed as an alternative to the old standard. I have personally used Airbnb for individual travel a few times in the last few years and have loved it. However, I've never really considered how this trend could affect the convention sphere. I'll be very interested to see how it plays out in the coming years.

- Anjee Sorge

Monday, September 22, 2014

Airplane Etiquette Redux- Passenger Shaming

Photo Credit: Passenger Shaming's Instagram Page
You've probably heard the many instances recently about bad behavior causing planes to turn around mid-flight. Well, a self-described "Sassy Stew" has Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts called Passenger Shaming that capture these stories plus funny rants and pictures about bad airplane etiquette.  It's pretty ridiculous (and hilarious) to see what some socially-deficient people find to be appropriate on an airplane.

Warning: Some language NSFW

Have a great example? Tweet/FB at #passengershaming

Friday, September 19, 2014

WME in The Meeting Professional

Wisconsin Meetings & Events (a division of FLG) was featured in the September 2014 issue of MPI's The Meeting Professional. They focused on a local Madison event we ran in July for Downtown Madison, Inc's New Faces, New Places program. Thanks for the love MPI!

You can read the article here.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

An Industry of Acronyms: Working at a DMC

The first day I started working at FIRE Light Group and Wisconsin Meetings and Events, I thought my co-workers were hazing me by speaking another language. Over the course of one conversation there were as many as 10 acronyms used… and I knew none of them. Faced with what seemed to be an endless list of 3-lettered abbreviations I did what any recent college graduate would do, I started writing them down. As the days passed and I slowly started recognizing when these acronyms were being used, one in particular stuck-out to me and that was “DMC”. At first I admit that the only reason it seemed familiar to me was because it reminded me of Run–DMC but I didn’t think they were talking about a rap group. Once I started sourcing hotels, it was finally explained to me that not only was “DMC” an iconic 80s band but that it also stood for a Destination Management Company. (See the bottom of this blog for a list of commonly used industry acronyms)

For those of you like me when I started who don’t know what a destination management company is, it is a professional services company possessing extensive local knowledge, expertise, and resources, specializing in the design and implementation of events, activities, tours, transportation and program logistics. A destination management company represents you, your goals, and what you want to come from your program. You benefit from the DMC’s knowledge, service quality, and reliability. A DMC will negotiate on your behalf and always keep your best interests and budget in mind. This was music to my ears as someone new to the incentive industry in charge of planning site visits to countries I had never even set foot in. They help me narrow down what can seem like endless options of activities and hotels and make sure that my client and I get exactly what we are looking for.

So, knowing that, here's my little commercial for our business:

FIRE Light Group, a veteran in the employee engagement and incentive travel industry just recently announced the launch of Wisconsin Meetings and Events. As a DMC, Wisconsin Meetings and Events (WME) specializes in a wide range of services including venue selection, contract negotiations, management and logistics of transportation and hotel stays (to name a few). Planning an event is time consuming, especially when you have a small staff that has additional responsibilities. With a single go-to resource for all of your meeting and event services, you won’t have to deal with numerous suppliers, contractors and other service providers. Outsourcing allows you to leave some or all of the planning duties to the experts, freeing up your staff to concentrate on what matters most to your event–program content. Now that I know the benefits of a DMC and know how valuable they are, check out the Wisconsin Meetings and Events website to learn more about how WME can help with your next meeting or event.

Ok, now that you've heard the pitch (or maybe you just scrolled past it, I'm not judging), here is the promised not-nearly-comprehensive list of industry acronyms, associations and terms. The associations are hyper-linked to their respective websites if you wanted to learn more.

AI- All-Inclusive
ASI- Advertising Specialty Institute
BEO- Banquet Event Order
CEP- Certified Engagement Practitioner
CESP- Certified Engagement Solutions Provider
CIC- Convention Industry Council
CIS- Certified Incentive Specialist
CITE- Certified Incentive and Travel Executive
CMM- Certificate in Meeting Management
CMP- Certified Meeting Professional
CSEP- Certified Special Events Professional
CVB- Convention and Visitors Bureau
DMC- Destination Management Company
EEA- Enterprise Engagement Alliance
EP- European Pricing
FAM- Familiarization Trip
FIT- Frequent Individual (or Independent) Traveler
HSMAI- Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International
IATA- International Air Transport Association
IBTM- Incentive, Business Travel & Meetings (America Expo- AIBTM, China Expo- CIBTM, Europe Expo- EIBTM)
IMA- Incentive Marketing Association
IMEX- Worldwide Exhibition for Incentive Travel, Meetings and Events (We know this doesn't line up with the actual acronym. Don't ask us why, we have no idea. We think "WEITME" may have just been too close to "Bite Me".)
IRF- The Incentive Research Foundation
ITE- Incentive Travel Exchange (Caribbean- CMITE, Global- GMITE)
MICE- Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions
MPI- Meeting Professionals International
PCMA- Professional Convention Management Association
PPPN- Per Person, Per Night
SITE- Society for Incentive Travel Excellence (or Executives, they have officially changed it but both seem to be used regularly.)

Looking at this long list, you can see why I was so confused. Just the certifications list alone are enough to befuddle anyone! Did I miss one of your favorites? If so, let us know in the comments.


Friday, August 29, 2014

Tips for Managing Group Travel Expectations

The Huffington Post published an article recently with the most overrated travel destinations as chosen by its readers. We here at FLG think all of these places have their merits but do agree that the sales pitch of some destinations can be much more enticing than the reality. We all know that when anyone is trying to sell something, they only show you the good parts. That's the way sales works, right? The key is managing expectations.

So what does this mean? It means that, when helping your client choose a destination, you need to be aware of the perceptions of a specific location and understand that they may not be accurate or the same as what you know. Ignoring these details will make for a very disappointed client. Sell the good stuff, definitely, but be honest about the reality too. In the long run, everyone is happier.

Um, is this really the beach?
Here are a few of FLG's tips for managing expectations:

- Be honest about a location and tell them about possible pitfalls or unpleasantries. For many, a place like the Caribbean sounds very exotic (and it IS beautiful) but the cruise stops can be dirty, touristy and crime-ridden. Don't gloss over the fact that many airports in the Caribbean aren't air conditioned and your people could spend some time sweltering in line. Be sure to mention the sheer distance between the Vegas hotels or that most food there is considerably more expensive than a $2 steak dinner. While we may know these facts and take them as a given, many people who do not spend their time traveling do not.

- It's estimated that nearly 30% of flights are delayed or cancelled. It can get even higher when you consider the airline or airport (I'm looking at you ORD). Remind your clients about the importance of choosing higher-quality airlines for their group travel because they have Inline Agreements.

- Our CEO, Sandi Daniel, recently said: "If budgets don't move, then expectations have to." Pretty good advice. Many clients have relatively the same budget they had five years ago. In the post-AIG, recession-ridden world, many luxury hotels were offering bargain basement pricing just to get people in the door. In 2014, you just can't get the same deals anymore. Simply put, without a bigger budget in 2015 (and beyond), the hotel options are just not going to be the same 5-star quality they enjoyed so inexpensively in 2010.

- Really explain the difference between run-of-house, "garden" or "lagoon" view, ocean view and ocean front. You'd be surprised how many people don't understand.

- Be aware of the customs, holidays and culture of the areas/countries that you are considering and be prepared to explain them.

- Group rates for hotels and airlines are not the same as what you find on Kayak or Expedia. They are often different because of the sheer size of the group. This can make the rates higher or lower, depending on the season and occupancy at the time of booking. Explaining this fun fact is one of the hardest things in the group travel world but it's pretty darn important.

- Be careful to explain the details of hotel and air attrition/utilization clauses. I cannot stress this enough. It is absolutely vital to managing their budgetary expectations.

In short, clients don't always know things that travel professionals take for granted. Making sure everyone is on the same page is the key to a happy client and a saner you.

- Anjee Sorge

Friday, July 25, 2014

Brand USA

Brand USA is a public-private not-for-profit organization created by the Travel Promotion Act of 2009 with the mission to generate increased international visitation to the United States and to grow its share of the global travel market. To accomplish this daunting task, Brand USA will use marketing campaigns, programs and partnerships with the travel industry. The incremental increase in international visitation will generate billions of dollars of revenue, which will in turn create new American jobs. While the United States welcomed 60 million visitors in 2010, its share of the international travel market has decreased significantly over the past decade. The U.S. share of long haul international travel fell from 17.2% in 2000 to 12.4% percent in 2010. Brand USA, the U.S.’s National Tourism Marketing Organization hopes to reinvigorate the nation’s image and recapture its share of the market.

Brand USA plays a unique role as the nation’s first cooperative destination marketing organization. With a country as expansive and diverse as the United States, it is important to have an organization that is dedicated to marketing the country to the world, and bringing visitors here to showcase all of the amazing opportunities and destinations the United States has to offer. As incentive travel experts, we’ve been to a wide variety of destinations around the world and can tell you that there is no place in the world like the United States with its limitless destinations and attractions. We look forward to following Brand USA’s journey in bringing visitors to this great land.

For more information about Brand USA and how it is working to market the United States, please follow this link.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Order a Tall, Non-Fat Latte: Support an Employee’s Education

If you read our previous post, then you know that non-cash incentives are a proven way to increase your company’s bottom-line and motivate your employees to be the best they can. Starbuck’s must have gotten the memo. Starbucks announced in June that their new incentive program will cover the cost of college for their employees in a new partnership with Arizona State University. Starbucks employees who want to finish college will get some help with their tuition, but it won't be a free ride. A student who completes all four years at Arizona State University's online program could pay in the ballpark of $30,000, according to calculations based on tuition costs. Also, a significant slice of the cost won't be paid by Starbucks at all, but by its partner, ASU. Workers who are admitted will receive a scholarship from the college that will cover 22% of their freshman and sophomore year's tuition. The remaining balance will have to be paid out of pocket by the student or through traditional financial aid. Workers completing their junior and senior years will get a 44% scholarship from ASU. The rest of the cost will be taken out in student loans which Starbucks says it will pay off after students complete each semester.

Starbucks says research, provided by ASU, shows that funding the semester up-front increases the drop-out rate. Tuition for ASU's online program is about $15,000 per year. "It's going to cost millions of dollars, but I don't view it as a cost," Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz told CNNMoney's Poppy Harlow in an interview. "I view it as an investment. And I'm so confident that this investment is going to drive performance and value for our shareholders." Most of Starbucks’ 135,000 U.S. employees are eligible to apply. The main question asked about this program is, why? When employees who graduate take off their caps and gowns, it's entirely possible they'll also hang up those green aprons. There's going to be more than enough options for those employees at the Starbucks of the future. They're consistently evolving in terms of what the stores are. The trick is to look at Starbucks as a consumer products company, not necessarily a coffee retailer. The approximately $30,000 cost of two years of tuition is worth it to keep quality employees with the company.(1) Starbucks did a great job at listening to their employees and coming up with an incentive system that not only motivates their employees to work but also helps better their lives. What is your company doing to motivate your employees and reward their accomplishments?

For more information about incentive programs and how to motivate your employees check out our website

1. Wallace, Gregory, and Amanda Hobor. "Starbucks Workers Could Pay $23,000 for 4-year Tuition." CNNMoney. Cable News Network, 20 June 2014. Web. 29 June 2014.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Non-cash Incentives: Why they work and why more companies should use them

A new study from the Incentive Research Foundation and research firm Aberdeen Group
finds that best-in-class companies are nearly one third more likely to use non-cash incentives in their sales incentive programs. While incentive program participants often state that they prefer cash to non-cash rewards, research has shown that cash is a poor motivator due to its lack of trophy value. Additionally, cash is quickly forgotten as many participants tend to spend it on everyday items or use it to pay bills. Given that most people do not generally talk about cash awards, cash programs do little to generate the interest required to create an effective incentive program. Research shows that pay for performance often gives only short term gains, frequently gives no gains at all, and may give reduced performance. Merchandise and other non-cash rewards are more often perceived as separate from compensation. Accordingly, non-cash rewards tend to stand out as rewards for performance, which enhances their long-term effect. Branded merchandise and other non-cash rewards have high trophy value, which brings greater recognition to the recipient at the time of the award and possesses a long-term lasting effect that can result in increased engagement in the organization’s goals.

This study conducted by the Incentive Research Foundation and the Aberdeen Group surveyed 246 end-user organizations on their sales performance management best practices. Through a number of metrics, including the percentage of sales reps achieving quota, the average deal size or contract value, and overall team attainment of sales quota, it rated the companies as best-in-class (20 percent), industry average (middle 50 percent) and laggard (bottom 30 percent). It found that the best-in-class companies are “more aware of the need to manage their sales professionals holistically”.(1) What was revealed in this study is that best-in-class firms are less likely to focus only on monetary awards than they were only a year ago, and that they are 31 percent more likely to rate non-cash incentives as “must have” in rewarding sales performance. While laggards are also likely to agree with this sentiment, the research found that these companies are also more likely to use non-cash incentives too late in the process or to use them ineffectively. Companies report three different behaviors that achieve measurably better sales and the data supports these for different recommendations for sales operations to consider. These behaviors are including non-financial incentives as a formal component of sales compensations, turn to external providers to help design and manage non-cash incentive programs (these can be complex and makes it easier for sales leadership to focus on main prize), and remember that non-payroll, channel sellers and distribution arms are often the lifeblood of a sales operation’s success story.

Like any other business expense, the funding of reward programs attracts intense scrutiny from business leaders looking to cut expenses and it is for that reason that it is important that these findings cannot be over scrutinized. Travel and merchandise awards often produce greater bottom-line benefits than other incentive alternatives and capture employee attention. As time passes businesses need to evolve, and with that their awards programs need to as well.

The IRF study and its full range of findings are available on the foundation’s website.

1. Ostrow, Peter. Incenting Success: Best-In-Class Sales Management (2015): n. page. Apr. 2015. Web. 19 June 2015.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Ups (and Downs) of Airplane Travel

Studies show that those who travel have healthier minds, bodies, and relationships. They are known to have a reduced risk for heart attacks, less likely to suffer from depression, and a decreased amount of cortisol (the stress hormone) in the body.(1)  With travel proven to decrease the amount of stress in a person, then why does travelling seem like such a time consuming hassle that includes endless planning and often times the dreaded airport trip?

On any travel day, you're on edge. Whether it's due to the angst of flying and goodbyes or dreading the extensive processes and long lines, something that was once a luxury, has turned into a hassle. Shoes off, bag weight, TSA pokes and prods, carry-on size, delays, and over bookings are all inconveniences that we fight through before taking our seats. Most of the stress with flying can be controlled: plan ahead, arrive early, and pack smartly. But what if others don’t plan their trip as well as you have? Despite there being no official printed rules, there are certain airplane etiquette guidelines all airplane travelers should follow when flying. Issues like the armrest challenge (who deserves to use it), use the overhead bin over your own seat, board when you are supposed to and not before, and bathe are guidelines travelers can follow to make other trekkers not hate them. After polling the FIRE Light Group team, there are two main pet peeves our staff have that they encounter when traveling that make their flight less enjoyable. These are: when and if travelers should recline their seats and those who bring more than they can carry.

When asked what bothered her most about airplane etiquette, Sandra, FIRE Light Group CEO, stated “Mine is the reclining seat from the person in front of you who seems to have no regard for the fact that you now have their seat in your lap! Just because seats recline on an airplane does not mean you should not think about the person behind you when you recline – less than 100% would be appreciated!” According to a study by Expedia, “Seat Back Guy”, defined as the passenger who reclines his seat fully once the plane has left the ground, ranks #7 on the list of travel-etiquette offenders. Thirty-five percent of Americans report having experienced major discomfort due to reclining seats, and 42% would like to see reclining seats banned entirely! This being said, 80% of fliers admit to reclining their seats during flights, with 1 in 5 reclining right after take-off.(2)   While flying, try to remember how it feels to get the seat in front of you shoved in your face, and be considerate of the person sitting behind you. Be cautious when reclining your seat back, and make sure to NEVER do it during food service because it makes eating near impossible for the person whose tray is attached to your seat.

The second main pet peeve our staff has is dealing with those who pack more than they can carry for a flight. Dustin, Director of National Accounts, stated that he dreads when people bring more than they can carry and rely on everyone else to lift their luggage for them, or their bag is too heavy and they can’t put it in the bin themselves and expect stewardesses to help them. Expedia ranked this annoyance at #8 in their poll, showing that 10% of Americans admit to ignoring the airlines carry-on baggage rules entirely.(3) When passengers have to stop and fight with their luggage to fit and shove it into the overhead bin, it not only takes up valuable space for others to put their luggage but it also holds up the line and makes boarding the plane take even longer. When packing, take the time to make sure your luggage not only fits the airplane’s size guidelines but also is a weight that you can manage to lift yourself. This will ensure a smooth boarding of the plane and shorten the time it takes you to get to your seat and relax.

Despite all setbacks, most Americans feel warmly about their fellow passengers with 84% agreeing with the statement: “For the most part, fellow flight passengers are considerate of other passengers”.(4)  Simply remember what bothers you when you fly, and take the time to make sure you are acting in a considerate why towards others and your flight will go smoothly and peacefully!

- Ashley

1. Parker-Pope, Tara. "How Vacations Affect Your Happiness." Well How Vacations Affect Your Happiness Comments. The New York Times, 18 Feb. 2010. Web. 10 June 2014.
2. Gavin, Sarah. "Expedia News." Expedia Viewfinder. Northstar, 9 Dec. 2013. Web. 10 June 2014.
3. Gavin, Sarah. "Expedia News." Expedia Viewfinder. Northstar, 9 Dec. 2013. Web. 10 June 2014.
4. Gavin, Sarah. "Expedia News." Expedia Viewfinder. Northstar, 9 Dec. 2013. Web. 10 June 2014.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Millennials: Aren’t we the worst?

"Millennials” is a term that is often heard but many times misunderstood. Born between 1980 and 2000, Millennials have been one of the most talked about, studied, and targeted generations. As a member of this illusive group, I’ve noticed that everyone seems to be talking about us and it’s not just because we are the largest generation by population size, but because we’re different than any other generation that came before us. We are more ethnically and racially diverse than older adults. We’re less religious, less likely to have served in the military, and are on track to become the most educated generation in American history. Our entry into careers and first jobs has been badly set back by the Great Recession. We are history’s first “always connected” generation. Steeped in digital technology and social media, we treat our multi-tasking hand-held gadgets almost like a body part – for better and worse.(1)  I am constantly told that my generation is “doomed”, that the economy we are graduating into is one that is still recovering from recession and with unemployment at a high it’s no wonder people are worried. Yes there is uncertainty, but we are also a generation full of hope. Millennials grew up in an expanding world of choice and options for just about everything they ever needed or wanted. Because of this, they view life very differently. They don’t see just see one path available to them—they see limitless possibilities to make their life their own. All of these characteristics set us apart from the generations before us, so what should businesses do to draw us in and to engage us?

Millennials are approaching adulthood differently than their parents did. Why? Well, the economy for one—the milestones of adulthood (getting a job, buying a home, getting married, and having kids) just aren’t as feasible for many Millennials given the ramifications of the recession and also the expanding world of choice and options for everything. Brands need to stop waiting for us to “grow up” and fall in line with what past generations have done. A lot of us already have; it just looks different than it did in the past. Brands and marketers need to shift and adapt to this reality, instead of waiting for one that won’t come true. The real challenge in this is figuring out how exactly to do it. Many brands feel that connecting with Millennials is extremely difficult. But, in reality, connecting with Millennials is pretty straightforward. In fact, Patrick Spenner of Forbes Magazine narrowed it down to three key strategies that brands should be kept in mind when engaging Millennials. First, understand and speak to the values that drive us – happiness, passion, diversity, sharing and discovery. Second, understand our realistic lifestyles and experiences and find ways to amplify our reality. And, finally, make sure we feel informed and involved, not just marketed to.(2)  By following these three strategies, brands will find more opportunities available to them to gain this generation’s affinity. We are the future of business, and it’s time to not just “engage” us, but to evolve with us and be a part of the future.

If you would like to learn more about Millennials and the research that is available check out some of the videos below!

Millennials: We suck and we’re sorry
Generation Like
TEDxSF: Scott Hess, Millennials: Who they are and why we hate them

Ashley Himebaugh
FLG Intern Extraordinaire

1. "Millennials: A Portrait of Generation Next." Pew Research Center (n.d.): n. pag. Pew Social Trends. Pew Research Center, 24 Feb. 2010. Web. 4 June 2014.
2. Spenner, Patrick. "Inside the Millennial Mind: The Do's & Don'ts of Marketing to This Powerful Generation." Forbes. CMO Network, 20 Feb. 2014. Web. 4 June 2014.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Pilots and Flight Attendants Spill Their Secrets

A lighter note for your Friday. It's a pretty interesting and entertaining read!

30 Pilots And Flight Attendants Confess The Best Kept Secrets You Don’t Know About Flying

(FYI: These are quotes so there might be a curse or two. If you have an employer who watches out for that stuff, be forewarned.)


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Gastronomic Tourism and the Rise (and Fall) of Food Porn

Everyone has that friend. You know, that one that posts every meal they eat on the internet. Perhaps it is even you. "Food porn" has been around for as long as Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, and the thousands of foodie blogs on the internet. For some, it has become their major avenue for sharing personal experiences with the world. But that doesn't mean we should keep doing it. Recently, it has seen some pretty serious backlash from chefs the world over. Some restaurants are even banning camera phones completely, much to the chagrin of the salivating masses.

I was reading a great blog today on the Daily Beast about why you need to put down your camera and enjoy your food as the chef intended it to be eaten (you know, hot). What I found most interesting though was the note about the dramatic increase in "Gastromonic Tourism" that is taking place these days. It is one of the "fastest growing travel sectors among the traveling class, according to the World Food Traveler... According to their 2013 statistics, over 39 million leisure travelers are considered 'deliberate culinary travelers.'"

With so many people traveling just for food, it's no wonder why there has been such a dramatic increase in the documentation of their experiences online. But are we missing out on what is really important? Why not just enjoy your meal, live in the moment, and share it only with those in your present company? Isn't that really the point? I think we miss out on some very real, visceral enjoyment when documentation becomes more important than the experience.

What do you think?

- Anjee

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Interline Airline Agreements

If you don't work in the travel business, you have probably never heard of Interline Airline Agreements. So, what exactly are they and why should you care? Simply put, interline agreements allow airlines to put patrons on competitor's planes. You might be wondering why anyone would send business to their competition. Well, if there is a problem like weather or mechanical issues that cause the flight to be delayed or canceled, you can call your airline and they can re-book you on another flight, generally at no additional cost.

Why is this so important? Here's a good example:

We do not do many groups on Air Tran and the reason is Air Tran, as well as several other discount carriers, do not participate in interline agreements. When Atlanta had a major ice storm last Wednesday, many flights were canceled or severely delayed. Part of our group fell victim to this when their flight was canceled from Jamaica to Atlanta. Because they do not have inline agreements, Air Tran was powerless to rebook our clients on another flight for four days. Yes, you read that right. FOUR days. Most of us would be happy to have four additional days in Jamaica when the alternative is sub-zero weather back in the Midwest. However, that also means additional costs for hotel and food, time off work, possible babysitter/housesitter/petsitter issues, etc. Four days was not acceptable. We had to rebook everyone ourselves and incur the extra costs associated with one-way tickets on other carriers. In addition to the cost, when you have a major airport like ATL pretty much in shutdown, you can bet everyone is trying to reroute at the same time. This meant that there was some pretty serious competition for open seats on other flights. It was, simply put, a nightmare.

Don't get me wrong, discount carriers like Air Tran have their place in the marketplace. They can be nice for the budget-conscious individual traveler because they offer a no-frills, cheaper ticket than some of the bigger boys. For groups, however, beware. My recommendation is to spend the extra money and fly one of the major carriers. If you do run into to problems, as we so often do during winter or hurricane season, it will pay for itself sixfold.

The more you know.

- Anjee

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Future of Hotel Keys

You have a long day of travel, you get the hotel and check in. You throw your key in your pocket, lug your bags up to the 38th floor. You walk a half mile down the hall to your room all the while dreaming of kicking off your shoes and having a cup of tea... and your key doesn't work. Gah! It has happened to everyone. Sometimes the clerk didn't assign the key properly. Sometimes it's your fault. (I took me years before I found out that putting your key next to your cellphone will cause it to lose magnetism. Yes, years. How pathetic!) Now you have to lug all of your stuff back down to the lobby to get a new key. All you wanted was that tea.*

Finally a solution! Starwood is rolling out a new program where you can dispense with the key all together and USE your phone instead. Now that's what I am talking about! It's great for the smartphone traveler because it's one less thing to carry and worry about. I'm sure it saves the hotels time and money, much like electronic boarding passes did for Delta and other airlines. It's a brilliant idea and I'm sure other hotels will be taking up this idea soon too. I, for one, can't wait! Oh, and did I mention that you can use the app to check in and out? That's right, you don't even have to interact with anyone if you don't want to. I like to chat with the desk folks because I am personable like that. But I know others who would want to skip that step all together and head right for their room.

Now where's that tea?

- Anjee

* By "tea" I mean "wine".  Obviously.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Recognition Trends for 2014

Roy Saunderson at Incentive Magazine has posted an great blog about the Top 10 Recognition Trends for 2014 That You Can't Ignore. He points out the use of mobile devices, video and social media as continuing trends in the engagement sphere. Overall though, I think number 9 is the most important- Company culture is the key to engagement and recognition. People need to feel like a part of something greater, to really care about what they do. That is the greatest motivator of all!


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Recession Recovery for Travel Industry

According to Successful Meetings, the travel industry is just 5,000 jobs shy of a complete post-recession recovery. That is excellent news!  Incentive travel took such a huge blow around 2009. In addition to the overall downturn due to the economy, the incentive industry was hit hard by the press surrounding AIG, Wells Fargo, et al who were publicly lambasted (justly or not) for sending their people on "boondoggles". These two things combined for a significant industry impact that saw massive layoffs, closures and struggles for many companies. I know we felt it as did many in our business circles. There were several very lean years and many incentive companies couldn't weather the storm. In the last year or so we have felt it getting better.  It's wonderful to confirm it in hard numbers and to know people are able to go back to work in this great industry. Hooray!

- Anjee