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INCENTIVE guru Lex Granaada, who hails from the Netherlands, heads incentive marketing company Granaada & Partner. In January, he became president of the Society of Incentive and Travel Executives International, the leading organization for incentive professionals. Here he discusses the past, present and future of incentive planning.

SPECIAL EVENTS MAGAZINE: What do you enjoy about being president of SITE? What are the difficulties?

LEX GRANAADA: I really enjoy the multinational contacts, the cultural challenges involved and the fact that so many professionals around the globe are dedicated to SITE. Difficulties are solely the time and travel needed to be able to visit as many regions as possible throughout the world to stay in tune with the needs of the membership.

Q: Describe one of the more original incentive programs your company has offered.

A: When Renault car dealers qualified for a trip to Puerto Rico, the inspection trip showed complications, such as overly long transfers and complex geography of the resort. To face those challenges, we had the busses stop at a tiny police station — more a straw hut — and had the people get out of the bus under the pretext of a security check. After a 10-hour flight, they were happy to break for the bus transfer. Inside the station they were provided with tropical cocktails and led into a beautifully decorated palm garden with a steel band. We proceeded to the resort and, knowing how difficult it was to orientate yourself there, organized a treasure hunt through the vast gardens to get the delegates to know the premises. The luggage had been taken to the rooms (recognizable by specially designed labels), and the participants were led from palm tree to palm tree: one with waiters waiting with cool champagne, another with a limbo teacher, a third where room keys were distributed, another had a waiter with refreshment towels, etc. After one day the whole group knew their way around the resort.

Q: What's popular in incentive programs right now?

A: Interaction — becoming involved in a culture, in cooking, in art and painting, in charity and building for society. We've linked ourselves to Child at Venture since we've met too many children in need during our inspections of destinations. We ask our clients visiting these destinations if they want to donate through us to this charity in order for children in Third World countries to be trained to become independent entrepreneurs.

Q: What challenges does the business face?

A: Challenges are procurement and, in general, buying on an international scale. Everybody nowadays can prepare, organize and book almost any aspect of any trip through the Internet. But I can advise where to go, why, in what season, and, most importantly, troubleshoot business problems. Tell me your problems, Mr. CEO, and I have a solution for you — not only in the choice of destination but also in the implementation of marketing strategies to get there.

Q: How has the incentive business changed since you started in 1990?

A: The focus is much more on details, on quality, on getting the value for your money, on a logical objective or choice of destination. The market is developing in size but also maturing and getting to a higher level of demand and supply little by little, partially due to all the combined efforts of SITE International. SITE, now in 87 countries throughout the globe, has a long-standing history of educating professionals. There is hardly any association as globally represented as SITE, so I am sure we deserve part of the credit …

Q: What do you foresee for the future in incentive programs?

A: Very slowly will individual incentives get a foothold outside the U.S. There is a beautiful future for incentive marketing, as in Holland, where only 50 percent of the multinationals implement incentives. This means that smaller companies claim a percentage lower than that.

Q: So are you implying that due to these percentages, there's room for growth?

A: Yes, you hit the nail on the head because personally I have witnessed in the very early '90s that hardly any {European incentive program} percentages existed.

Lex Granaada can be reached at [email protected], or visit SITE at

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