The Australian subsidiary of a global automotive manufacturer (which declined to be named in this article) was planning its annual top performers' travel award. In previous years, the company’s highest achievers had been taken on a domestic trip, but this year leaders were interested in a more exotic destination—and an international venue that would stay within budget.
The company employed event management firm BI Worldwide to help it put together an incentive programme that would drive competition within the business and encourage staff to achieve greater sales in their divisions, motivated by the reward of a trip to an inspiring place.
“Originally, we prepared our proposal on Shanghai [where the client has a manufacturing plant] and Hong Kong or Shanghai and Beijing as combinations for the program,” says Tu Tran, event program manager at BI Worldwide.
Tran says that the organisers initially saw Shanghai as a business hub and not a destination with ‘sights’ for delegates to enjoy. But on further research, she says, it became apparent that the city was an ideal destination for this group, particularly with the Formula 1 Chinese Grand Prix coinciding with their travel dates.
“This client felt that an overseas destination offered more of a once-in-a-lifetime experience to a big portion of the audience,” says Tran. “For many this was their first award trip on offer and for others, it was the first time they would go overseas.”
“We pushed for Shanghai because it was a place we thought a lot of people had not experienced for themselves. It also reduced the amount of flying time for the participants.”
BI Worldwide designed a program that allowed delegates to experience Shanghai while also attending the Grand Prix. The trip included luxury accommodation at the Langham Hotel, perfectly located at the gateway to the ‘Champs-Elysées of the East’, HuaihaiZhong Road, and featuring stunning views of the city.
Along with high-end restaurants for dinner, activities included an acrobat show, a Kung Fu master class and a tour of the ‘Old Town’ in vintage sidecar motorbikes. The organising team also created a gala awards dinner at one of the best restaurants in the city, M on the Bund, to recognise and celebrate employees’ successes. This venue, the brainchild of Australian restaurateur Michelle Garnaut, serves European, North African and Australian flavours and is popular with both locals and tourists.
Spurred on by a communications campaign highlighting the experiences of the trip to boost competitive spirit, 48 company employees across three divisions were named winners. For many, this was their first opportunity to visit China and for some, to leave the country. The BI Worldwide team worked diligently with individuals to manage travel extensions, dietary requirements, passports and visas in preparation for the trip. This was a challenge, admits Tran, that took a considerable amount of manpower.
“A number of participants are not well travelled and the process of obtaining their passports and visa forms was quite labour intensive,” she says. “Detailed instructions on how to complete the form and return it to BI Worldwide were all sent to the participants but even then, we had numerous calls and 30% of them didn’t send us their passports for the visa. There were also a few close calls for people who didn’t have passports or needed to renew them. However, everyone got on the plane, so it was a success!”
Once on the ground in Shanghai, the program proved to be a great success.
“I think it hit me that the program was a success at the gala dinner at M on the Bund,” says Tran. “Everyone was raving about the food and drinks and having a great time. They were all connecting with one another. Sometimes on these trips you get outliers or the group doesn’t quite gel, but this was not the case.”
“When speaking to the guys on the program, they said that Shanghai was not a place that they would initially consider going to, however, they were really happy that it was ticked off their list. I think the destination, the hotel booked and the activities we did pleasantly surprised them,” Tran added.
Once everyone was safely back in Australia, the team sent out a feedback survey to the delegates, asking them to rate their pre-event experience, activities, hotel and F&B. The team then shared the results with the program sponsors. Every delegate answered that they would be motivated to achieve again, and the overall score for delegate satisfaction was 98%.
Finally, the team reconciled the program financials to provide insight into a return on investment for the program. The average ROI per achiever was 13.6 to 1 while the total program ROI (including hosts) was 5.1 to 1.