Risks associated to Incentive travel: a Risk Assessment

Written by Shivdutt Das


One crucial element of incentive travel which most planners miss out on is, risk assessment. Having worked on the manufacturing and strategic planning side I always had this habit of asking associated risks and mitigation plan to my team on every project. I don’t see this as a practice with many large corporates even today when tables have turned and I am on the agency side today. With the demand of delivering satisfaction still staying within approved budgets yes the financial risks are evaluated but that’s tip of the iceberg. Moving such large contingents of people has so many dimensions to it and related risks that needs a deeper thinking, planning and strategy in hand to mitigate.

1. Healthcare Plan

In my experience with so many Indian incentive planners be it on the corporate client side or agencies I have only seen people asking food preferences like Veg/Non Veg & Jain, latest addition is vegan. How about allergies?

Now it has become a practice in most international fine dining restaurants where they take a declaration from you on your food allergies before they serve you your order. While travelling international with a stressful chase to flight and hectic itineraries when you don’t get the desired rest is imperative meals are well taken care of. Western country incentive planners draw the meal plans basis calories, allergies, types and courses however if you see an Indian corporate requirement or an agency offering it’s the count of

dishes with accompaniments. Neither the client nor the agency cares on the actual content of the meal. Capturing food allergies and health conditions of travellers is a must do activity in the planning exercise.

Some destinations are critical about certain diseases, epidemic and might have mandatory requirements of vaccinations. This is to be kept in mind while considering a destination with relevant weightage as much as you consider its attractions, weather and entertainment factors.

2. Forecasts & Provisions

Often an incentive plan is scheduled around off peak business months to ensure least impact on business with large number of employees or distributors staying away from work. To my mind for every destination one should look at the most suitable weather and keep safe from any possible showers, cyclone, flood, sand storm or volcanic disruptions. Any such un expected situation can indeed put human lives to risk and have huge financial damages. Sometimes there are remote chances of any such thing and contingencies are to be provisioned accordingly. Singapore like destination where you can indeed have shower anytime of the year if you have planned an outdoor event lives with a risk of getting spoiled, so a backup indoor option is always needed. Some cities have pre-declared labour strikes, city events, blackout dates and these can completely spoil your plan. So ample provisions are to be made when you have made a conscious call going ahead with your project during such times.

3. Safe keep of travel documents and valuables

In my experience of handling incentive trips honestly this would have happened at least not less than 10 times. People lose their passports, currency, ornaments and so many other valuables. While doing contracting with hotels its necessary to check their provisions of safe deposit lockers. Some hotels do provide it in the room and some have common safe at the reception desk. If it’s a safe deposit locker in the room, it’s advisable to do a demonstration of this operation during group check ins. The communication should reinforce on the importance of handling travel documents and other valuables with care. Any such incident can cause real hardship to the individual or group. Same is information on lost and found be it at the airports or attractions. Efficient planners keep prior information about such places and immediately report to them if such incident occurs. It depends how prepared and informed the planner is to address such issues.

4. Emergency Services & SOS

As an extended plan of healthcare assistance its essential to discuss the doctor on call services provided by your hotel. Some large hotels and isolated resorts have resident physicians to provide first aid care otherwise most star hotels have 24*7 doctor on call. The planner should know the exact response time of such a service on an emergency and proximity to critical care. The travellers should also be well communicated on ways to seek help in case of any such need. If the planner has detailed out his own project plan with good health questionnaire, medication status and allergies he would always have some idea on probable cases of such requirements. I have experienced travellers arriving at the

departure gates of the airplane on wheel chairs for whom there is nothing appropriate planned ahead. There are cases of cardiac arrests on flights, extreme food allergies and many more. If you are ready you can at least respond.

5. Data Security

In today’s world, the biggest asset for any corporation is your data and information. I had always been extremely uncomfortable with the incentive plan files being shared on open excel sheets and emails without any indemnity or NDA. Such vital information of your top talent and internal business information is shared to various vendors, stakeholders and service providers with no clue on to what extent the same can be misused. Data security is a collective responsibility of everyone involved in planning and execution of an incentive travel.

The competency gap with the planners be it on the client side or agency, indeed increases these risks multiple folds. The biggest myth is a person who is well travelled or creative in thinking can be the best incentive planner. With my experience over years I have seen the most disciplined professionals with an eye into details and a sharp analytical thinking are the best resources for this job. You can bring in that missing link of geographical knowledge, destination expertise, creative designs, etc. through an external agency however the internal guy responsible for the project of such complexities must be an extremely good project manager.

Wouter de Vries