Incentive events come in all shapes and sizes but have one common thread - they can have an extremely positive effect on the bottom line.

Whether hosting an intimate dinner or a corporate suite at an international sporting event, incentive events traditionally increase staff motivation and thus productivity and the bottom line. US studies suggest 10 per cent year-on-year growth for companies that use incentives compared to three per cent for those who don't.

Ranked highly in the world's top incentives destinations (see below), the Australian industry is well aware of the bottom-line imperative in hosting such events for staff; here are 10 reasons why a business, large or small, should consider holding one:

1. Showing appreciation. Smart companies understand the value of thanking staff performing well and/or hitting sales targets. Studies show the cost of replacing valued staff members - in time, dollars and heartache - is greater than retaining top performers if they are wooed away. Making such staff feel special makes for a more productive and rewarding business relationship - and staff who feel genuinely appreciated are more likely to view your business positively and remain loyal.

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2. Productivity. If a staff member excels, the employer may thank them and recognise them. But the employer also wants this behaviour to be repeated. So an incentive travel event brings recognition of a type that makes the employee want the recognition and reward again. As one New Zealand-based incentive travel agency says: "Once they are at the incentive event, they will be making a note of what is going on and will be mentally booking their place at the next one."

3. Deepening relationships. Recognising a staff member's efforts and appreciating their abilities builds an essential bond between company, manager and employee. Establishing this bond is vital for building a healthy and positive environment, where employees feel comfortable speaking to their managers and, often, coming up with ideas that boost business and profits.

4. Credibility. Hosting incentive events are a valuable and credible way to take a relationship with staff to the next level. We all know the slight awkwardness that can attend a staff "bonding" session where we all have spontaneous fun, starting at 6pm...Going on a rewarding travel experience helps you get to know your staff better and establish personal rapport.

5. Happy workplace. In a happy workplace, a different sort of chemistry prevails. If managers, peers, and even the CEO recognise employees' work ethic and performance, it becomes a much more dynamic area and, often, a pool of ideas. It's not just a matter of financial performance but attitude and culture - appreciating not only the small things with a simple 'thank you, you are great' but the big things as well. When a staff member is presented with a significant reward, they feel a sense of pride - not just in themselves but also in working for that business.

6. Family. Recognition doesn't just come from managers but also from the employee's peers. It helps establish comradeship between colleagues, excellent for increasing teamwork in the workplace. That's why, as another incentives event planner from New Zealand maintains, it should not just be sales staff who are rewarded: "It might be someone the company feels embodies their corporate values which are on a plaque in the boardroom but otherwise little-regarded. It might be the person in the telephone room dealing with an irate customer and solving the problem. We are seeing a lot more of that these days - and it has a positive effect on the businesses involved."

7. Loyalty. From family comes loyalty - as premier New Zealand songsmith Dave Dobbyn sings in the first line of his anthemic Loyal: "I can't remember last time I thanked you".

Those businesses who do remember to thank their staff do better - US figures suggest an 18 per cent lift in productivity over firms who do not use incentives and 55 per cent of staff stay with incentive-using companies significantly longer than those who don't employ incentives.

8. Management benefits too. A recognition programme not only rewards staff but management as well. Incentives help identify workplace stars and allows managers to move them up through the ranks - an activity that also helps the manager's star to shine.

9. Reinforcing your brand. Every successful business has a set of values designed to distinguish that company's brand from competitors. Display them and make them as much a part of everyday working life as you can. An incentive programme doesn't just reward good performance, it helps to reinforce the qualities that set your company apart and aid overall achievement. It's not just about sales targets but about company values and all who espouse and promote them.

10. Retaining clients. Though these incentive programmes are for staff, the event and the effect on your staff and their relationship with clients will give those clients a better understanding of your brand and the corporate culture that supports it - and underscoring their own good judgement in selecting your company to do business with.

World-class events

Research undertaken by Tourism Australia shows that, out of 45 competitor destinations for corporate events such as the USA, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, UK, Canada, Hong Kong, Taiwan, France, Hawaii and Switzerland, Australia was ranked first or second across the board.

Interviews with 550 senior managers in Australia's 10 most important markets saw Australia ranked top in areas like:

• Safe and secure destination (Japan second, New Zealand third)
• Quality accommodation
• Food and wine (France was ranked second)
• Clean cities
• Friendly business events staff
• Local attractions
• Ease of visa
• Climate and world-class beauty (Hawaii second, New Zealand third)

Australia ranked second in the following areas:

• Excellent facilities (USA first)
• Value for money (China first)
• Exclusive experiences (USA first)
• Proven performance (USA first)

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