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November 29, 2004
Travel Awards Make Employee 'Thank Yous' More Memorable
When the team seems sluggish and things are in a lull, sometimes what you need is a little friendly competition to get things going. Sure, you could invite everyone down to the local schoolyard and host a game of basketball. But sending someone away would make things even more interesting.

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No, we're not suggesting that you fire the stragglers. Instead, how about enticing the sales force with travel certificates? Travel awards, say industry experts, are often more appreciated than cash.

"Typically if you get a bonus," says Sharon Waters of Marriott Incentive Awards, "you're going to use it to pay a bill or do something to your house. You probably wouldn't travel with it. But if you win a trip, you're going to go on that trip. You'll have a great time, it's memorable, and it's enviable to other employees." Envy can be a powerful motivator, says Waters. "The other people in the office are motivated when you come back from Cancun and talk about the fabulous beaches and the great time you had," she says. "If you had just paid off your credit cards, on the other hand, it doesn't work as well."

Waters says travel awards are second in popularity only to cash as employee incentives. People love to travel, as evidenced by the number of certificates redeemed. "There is not one hotel in our system that has never had somebody redeem a certificate there," Waters continues.

"The certificates include not only the accommodations, but also a full breakfast for two and applicable room tax. We have properties all over the world, which is great because everybody is motivated by something different. I love to go to New York, so I would probably go there. But there are people who might be going to a family reunion in Des Moines, and don't want to stay at their relative's house."

Marriott offers individual travel award certificates that companies can use to reward employees for a variety of accomplishments. For example, says Waters, hotels and factories use them as safety awards. They can be used for sales or nonsales employees or to recognize special events.

"Companies use these anytime they want to recognize a job well-done," Waters says. "Perhaps you have a sales team that is not quite reaching their goal. It's getting toward the end of the year, and you want to increase motivation. So you might do a quick little contest to see who can bring in the most revenue. You name it­if you have an employee, there's a way to use the certificates."

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