Meetings-industry veteran Shirley Hutchins has launched Andaré, a new search engine for incentive travel planners focused on the luxury market. The sourcing tool curates properties from top brands such as Ritz-Carlton, Relais and Chateaux, and Four Seasons, as well as activities in their destinations. The basic search is available to anyone, but a paid membership allows the user to access multiple filters, contact hotels and DMCs, save favorites, and more.
While September 2020 may have been an inopportune launch date for an incentive travel product, we asked Hutchins about incentive market’s rebound from the pandemic and why she’s got faith in both planners’ ingenuity and the enduring appeal of reward travel.
Across 2021 and 2022, with concerns about the pandemic possibly still lingering, how can incentive planners get winners excited about travel as a reward?
Hutchins: Even before Covid, the trend had been to focus on experiences and unique destinations. Top performers are driven by the desire to receive recognition from leadership and colleagues, and by the chance to take part in once-in-a-lifetime experiences. They are motivated by and have learned to expect unusual, bucket-list opportunities. Post-Covid, the need and appreciation for human interaction coupled with the anticipation of the extraordinary will inspire those who might feel some lingering hesitation to travel.
The good news is that by working with local DMCs in destinations of interest who are focused on the small details and who stay updated on new trends, hotels, destinations, and activities, the options are endless. Researching health protocols for all segments of the trip and communicating this information to participants along with the extra steps that will be taken to ensure everyone’s safety will help put people at ease, allowing them to focus only on winning a spot on the trip.
Long term, do you think incentive travel will evolve to meet the changing interests of incentive winners?
Hutchins: Incentive travel, just like everything else in business, will need to evolve to stay relevant as a means to encourage participants to go above and beyond. The great news is that, as the past nine months have shown us, the people in our industry are very adaptable. By definition, hospitality means “the generosity and courtesy shown to those away from home.” I have always loved working in this industry because we have so many generous, caring, creative people, and because of this I believe we will always find a way to be successful and inspire others to do the same.
What might someone be surprised to learn about you?
Hutchins: One of my favorite things to do whenever I travel is to wake up at dawn to explore. It is wonderful to be able to appreciate these magical destinations during this peaceful time of day, while most travelers are still asleep.