The success of an incentive trip is largely entrusted to the professionalism of the hostesses and stewards, the so-called “assistants”.
But why are the assistants so important for the trip’s success and everyone’s satisfaction? What do they actually do?
In a medium-sized incentive trip, quality assistance (provided by professional hostesses and stewards) accounts for approximately 10% of the cost, but also ensures the success of the trip even in case of unforeseen situations. Therefore, in my opinion, it is worth more than what it costs.
Assistants work on three fronts: for the participants (first of all), for the customer company, and for the incentive house. They must take care of the interests of all three and ensure that everything runs smoothly during the trip, so everyone is completely satisfied.
In terms of the incentive house, the tour leader oversees logistics and guarantees that the program progresses correctly, as described in the contract.
When the group departs from different airports and heads to the destination, the tour leader manages and checks the departure and arrival times, the flight connections, and meet-up. If there is not a correspondent on the spot, the assistants must also control all services: airline and hotel reservations, accommodation, transfers, excursions, restaurants, and all of the other services purchased by the client. Sometimes they also have an economic responsibility, such as some on-the-spot payments, or simply in terms of accounting and the endorsement of extra services to be billed to the customer.
Quality control with regard to the services and their adherence to the contract are very important and in everyone’s interest. A good tour leader must have the authority and the capacity to meet his or her commitments while the trip is “in progress”, which is sometimes complicated by intermediations and misunderstandings.
A very sensitive topic is that which concerns the “extras“. Assistants must carry out these controls without becoming fiscal, and they must have the sensitivity to decide from time to time.
The support team also represents the customer company for the entire duration of the trip, or rather acts on behalf the company, at both an operational and image level. Operationally it acts on behalf of the company and has to make the participants feel “at home”. It’s really the only channel between the traveling group and the corporate structure at home, and this channel must always remain open and viable. In terms of the image of the hostesses and stewards, they must assume the identity of the company and never be perceived as “staff from the agency”. They should always wear a uniform, preferably with the customer company’s logo or colors. For all practical purposes they are part of the company for this trip. They will familiarize with the participants and take part in the “corporate life” that unfolds during the trip. It is not unusual that hostesses and stewards are requested “personally” for subsequent trips
Of course, the work becomes more visible and appreciated when is done for the participants. In addition to the material assistance at the airport and in the hotel (documents, forms, baggage weight, customs delays, comfort, translations, and so on), the assistants must be wherever the guests are: on the beach, at the breakfast room, on excursions, at the evening cocktail, after dinner. The assistants must ensure the guests’ wellbeing and their full enjoyment of the trip, preventing problems and “sensing” how to nip any discontent in the bud. They must stay close to those who are timid or new, encouraging their integration into the group. It’s obvious that everyone should at least know English. A professional, capable and numerically strong team turns out to be the key element in the event of serious problems.
We had an incident in Madagascar when a guest had to be hospitalized for a minor accident. Of the six hostesses, one was given the task of staying by his side, resolving all of the practical problems, and providing him with the appropriate psychological support. After three days of hospitalization the guest was able to return to the group and continue his journey.
Even the composition of the team is important. The ratio of the assistants to participants must never fall below 1:25, but for small groups or more intense travel, the ration should be at least 1:20, or even greater. Today’s corporate clients are also competing on the quality of their incentive trips. Offering a trip with excellent assistance helps your brand image to grow within the group of participants and, by word of mouth, with their representatives and the competition. It’s the conduct of a true leader.
All in all, with a cost-benefit ratio that’s truly beneficial.