Incentive Travel: When Disaster Strikes


Incentive Travel & Charity Team Building: After Disaster Strikes

Just when the global economy seemed to be on the upswing, 2011 has ushered in a fresh set of natural disasters and societal turmoil. They have the potential to derail the global economic recovery.

Fresh in our memories are the BP crisis in the Gulf, the natural disasters in Australia and Haiti, Hurricane Katrina, and the boxing day tsunamis in south east Asia. It isn’t news to anyone reading this that there has been an earthquake followed by a tsunami, aftershocks, and instability at a nuclear complex in Japan, the world’s 3rd largest economy.

It is also not news that there have been a wave of protests in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, and Bahrain. This is already creating a spike in oil prices and intermittent shortages in some areas.

When disaster strikes, the knee jerk reaction is “Oh, we can’t possibly consider taking our team there for a sales incentive trip or team building retreat”. Naturally, no one would be wise to take their team into an area during a period of instability, combat, or a pending nuclear meltdown. Unfortunately, long after calm has been restored and a crisis has subsided, there is usually a lingering fear of particular destinations. It always astonishes me that so many Canadian and American companies are afraid to take their sales teams to Dubai, Abu Dhabi or Oman because they have read about a crisis in the Gaza Strip, Yemen or some other area that is far away. I am orginally from Jamaica. It also baffles me when companies are nervous about booking incentives and retreats on the north coast because there has been a disturbance 2 to 2 1/2 hours away in a area of Kingston that is smaller than many suburban plazas in North America. I don’t get it but some companies have a tendency to avoid destinations that have gone through a crisis or period of turmoil like the plague. For a number of reasons, this is not a prudent strategy.

It is no longer a cliché that we live in a global village. Around the globe, waves of turbulence are likely to increase rather than decrease. No one knows where they will hit next. If every time a destination experiences a crisis companies cross it permanently off their list as “undesireable”, you’ll end up with fewer options for travel and a shrinking circle of influence. How will the economies of countries that have gone through a crisis ever recover if companies avoid doing business with them?

How is this relevant to incentive travel and foreign team buiding retreats? We are interconnected. If one area of the world does not do well, there will be a ripple effect. It may not be obvious but, ultimately, there will be an impact on the demand for your own products and services. For example, Japan is one of the largest oil consuming countries in the world. If the Japanese economy goes into recession and Japan’s demand for oil drops sharply, this will have an impact on the economies of all oil producing nations.

In 2003, my company launched a new team building programme called Visexecutaries: Seizing Opportunities in our Shifting Corporate Landscape. It includes a real Apprentice style project and a charitable component.

The core messages are:

  • turbulence is the new normal – I can’t take credit for that, Porter said it first
  • it is important to connect the dots as what happens in one part of the world has a ripple effect and may have an impact on your business
  • tunnel vision thinking and the not invented here syndrome are to be avoided at all costs as they can blindside you to changes in your market and untapped areas of growth
  • when one area of your community is hurting, it reduces the potential of the entire community so it’s important to give those in need a leg up

We are now seeing these themes reflected in newspaper headlines daily. In spite of this, many companies still resist those messages. They are stuck in the “not invented here” paradigm, dismissing anything that does not originate in their own industry or country as irrelevant. A news items that scrolled across my television screen on the TV listings channel really hammered this home for me. I am paraphrasing:

“There will not be immediate lay-offs at Japanese automobile factories in Ontario due to the halt of production in Japan”.

Ouch! Talk about connecting the dots. A tsunami that hits Japan on the other side of the world CAN potentially lead to lay-offs closer to home and have a negative impact on your local economy. If your company avoids certain destinations and their tourism industries go into a slump, it will have an impact on their economy and potentially ricochet and hit you in your own backyard.

Instead of permanently crossing certain destinations off your list, when disaster strikes, make them a priority. Clearly, it may not be prudent to hop on a plane and take your team there tomorrow but monitor the situation. Get status updates and re-entertain the possibility 3 months, 6 months, and 9 months down the road.

In the meantime, for your next team building session or corporate event, have a fundraiser or assemble packages with clothing, blankets, diapers, thermoses, canteen bottles, bottled water, non-perishable foods, flashlights, surgical masks, band-aids, bandages, disinfectant, toiletries, medical supplies, chainshaws, tools, nails, and school supplies.

It’s not practical to travel to deliver them at the height of a severe disaster or with a potential nuclear nuclear meltdown pending. In those situations, dispatch the supplies through a respected charity or the local consulate for that country. The information with this video has a list of organizations that can quickly get aid to areas that have been struck by disaster:

If travel to the area is possible, arrange for members of your sales team to personally deliver the supplies you have collected during a sales incentive trip and do it sooner rather than later.

Companies that really have heart can use disasters to transform their incentives and foreign retreats forever. If your team has special skills and expertise, why not dispatch a group to help with the clean up? The skills of construction workers, firefighters, medical professionals, mdeical social workers, helicopter pilots, and search and rescue professionals are all needed during periods of disaster.

What about snow plough operators, architects, landscapers, chefs, waiters, dieticians, and caterers. Food and beverage companies can send a team to a foreign destination to distribute some of the non-perishable items they manufacture. The team can spend part of its time at a resort and most of its time clearing debris, assisting with agricultural projects, digging wells, planting vegetable gardens, delivering supplies, distributing food, repairing local schools, and houses.

Making a difference when disaster srikes will be a truly rewarding experience for your team. It’s definitely a paradigm shift worth making.

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One thought on “Incentive Travel: When Disaster Strikes

  1. The article written by you is very informative and covering all aspects in Incentive travel.

    Incentive travel is important for every employee as it is an award of his hard work, dedication towards work. We have to keep n mind one thing that person who is getting incentive travel, he is the winner in his organization. Destination is playing the big role in it as everybody willing to visit economically & politically stable destination. Employees want to enjoy with their colleagues and try to know each other personally. By incentive travel there is team building within employees, networking, Sharing ideas all this objectives get achieved.

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