As a result of the DMC’s proposal there comes another trenchant moment for the destination and the DMC: The Inspection trip. Inspection trips can happen at two different moments:
- Before selection. The DMC proposal has meet the requirements of the corporate account but the final choice of the destination has not been made yet. Thus the Incentive House and its corporate client visit the destinations retained for the last selection before making the final decision.
- After selection. The proposal of the DMC has been accepted and the destination chosen. The corporate client visits the destination to get a first hand impression and finalise the programme options.
Each type of trip is important, but for obvious reasons the inspection “before selection” is more important for the DMC as the business is not closed yet. Most of the Clients and Corporate would like to have the inspection trips free of charge. This may have been possible in the past when the DMC margins were larger. This is no longer the case and the inspection becomes an important cost factor which the DMC can no longer absorb.
Depending on the local conditions and costs, the DMC’s apply different systems to cover the inspections.
- All costs are charged.
- All costs are charged but deducted from the final invoice if the programme is materialised.
- The DMC obtains free hotel accommodation, offers free land transportation and his time for the inspection. Meals are at the charge of the client (some hosted).
- One inspection is free or partially free of charge and consecutive inspections are charged.
There can be several combinations of the above depending on the length of stay, local costs, conditions, relationship with the client, local competition and volume of business, so there is not a universal rule to recommend. However there is confirmation of a general trend among Destination Management Companies to charge for the inspections (case b), and this is mainly to discourage fake inspections which unfortunately still occur.
“Before the selection” inspection trips are a delicate operation which should be trusted to an experienced, resourceful and decision making staff member of the Destination Management Company. It is always an asset if the manager/owner of the DMC is personally involved in this stage, as this gives extra confidence to the client.
Before the inspection the DMC consultant should establish with the INCENTIVE HOUSE whether rates can be discussed in the presence of the corporate client. This question often arises when extra or enhancing elements are discussed during the inspection. If the INCENTIVE HOUSE is working on cost plus fees there is not a problem and the DMC can openly discuss rates. If this is not the case, it takes a lot of experience for the DMC staff to navigate around questions concerning costs without exposing his client the INCENTIVE HOUSE.
Many times it is best that the reply is not avoided and the best way to handle it is a reply of the type “we shall check out the cost and let Mr X (INCENTIVE HOUSE) know” or “the cost used to be about… we shall check out it and confirm the rate.”
Usually the corporate client does not raise these cost questions to check the INCENTIVE HOUSE but to judge if he can afford an improvement of the programme. In most cases a “ballpark” figure is satisfactory for the moment.
Before the inspection the DMC must prepare his itinerary with care, specially if he drives the clients in his own car. He must make sure that he is familiar with the roads because there is nothing more embarrassing during an inspection than loosing your way to a venue. So if the DMC has any doubts about routings he must do a pre inspection to familiarise himself. During the inspection the DMC consultant must anticipate possible changes wished by the client on the spot and have ready alternative solutions to present.
Unless it is a surprise visit, availability of the visited venues must be checked and preferably booked in advance of the inspection. The DMC consultant must have briefed in advance the responsible person of each the venues, have taken appointments, and know the name of the person in charge. If the DMC consultant is known by the managers of the venue and greeted by his name it always gives a good impression to the client who needs to be assured that the DMC is known and respected by the suppliers.
At the inspection a working pattern should be established and the details of the operation should be discussed in depth. During the inspection of dine-around restaurants the menus should be tried out and even a tasting of gala dinners supplied by a catering service should be organised.
Practically it is impossible to create a theme party for an inspection trip, therefore the client has to trust the DMC for this element. However for some very important incentives there have been cases where the client will do a special inspection trip to see the theme operated by the DMC for another client provided the later gives his agreement. Entertainment can be covered by providing video films, or compact discs of the entertainers.
While the inspection is going on, the DMC consultant should be aware that each of his movements and attitudes will be scrutinised by the client who at times can go so far as to provoke the DMC consultant with unpleasant remarks or impossible requests to check his reactions.
Under the right circumstances, a firm position from the DMC and documented refusal can be more beneficial to the DMC than a blind obedience to every caprice of the client. During the inspection the DMC consultant should demonstrate:
- A deep knowledge of all the products and services he proposes.
- Excellent knowledge of the destination.
- Negotiating skills and experience
- Recognition by the suppliers
- Punctuality and posture
- Good taste and manners
- Initiative and imagination
- Patience and good humour
- Friendliness and respect
- Organisation skills and availability
- Personality and confidence
These all might sound too much but it is a matter of experience which comes after having made several inspection trips.
The inspection trips “after the selection” are not different. The DMC consultant must pay the same attention and show the same qualities. However he can operate under less pressure with the business having already been confirmed and knowing that at least he is not competing with other destinations.
Doing an inspection trip with an INCENTIVE HOUSE that is already a client and with whom the Destination Management Company has a track record is a very important and psychological advantage for the DMC consultant. In this case he has mainly to convince the corporate user of his abilities and the possibilities of the destination.
At the next issue: Planning the Event
© Tasso Pappas CITE
Tasso Pappas was President of the SITE Greek Chapter 2006-2010 and served as President of SITE Intl. in 2000. This article is an extract from his book “To be or not to be a DMC” which he wrote in 1996 as his thesis for the certification as CITE (Certified Incentive Travel Executive). More information about Tasso Pappas you can find at http://sites.google.com/site/tassopappasconsultancy/
Contact: [email protected]