2014 SITE Crystal Award Recipient
Exceptional Motivational Travel Program – Best in Class: South America
AV Business & Communication
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Bic, the largest manufacturer of stationery products in the world, awarded the winners of Pasaporte Bic 2014 program with a unique experience, a trip to the Colombian cities of Bogota and Cartagena de Indias. The group of 25 participants consisted of top performing Bic distributors and sales executives. The trip, conducted in the spring of 2014, had primary objectives to reward dealers that exceeded the minimum volume set for the 6 months leading up to the incentive program and generate affinity and strengthen relationships between the company and their most important and loyal distributors The challenge of choosing the destination was closely related to the group travel history. In previous years Bic had traveled to the Amazon, Greece, Turkey, South Africa, Hawaii and Mexico. Colombia provided the characteristics of a different and unique destination and the cities of Cartagena and Bogota were chosen for their culture and natural heritage. None of the participants had ever been to Colombia, hence the experience was unparalleled. The most impactful teambuilding activity was held at the Restaurant "Oh La la", owned by a French-Colombian couple that specializes in fusion cuisine. The group was divided into teams that had to prepare four different dishes, desserts and mojitos. Dressed in aprons and caps adorned with the Bic logo, and equipped with all necessary kitchen items, participants committed to the preparation of the dishes. Not only did everyone enjoy the meal but also the hand-on experience that inspired them to work as a team, taking care of every detail from preparation to presentation of the dishes. The jury, the restaurant owners, evaluated the work of each team and gave final feedback about their culinary creations. The program combined the rich cultural experience of the destination, with team activities, and a business meeting at the Hilton Bogota, where Bic shared new trade challenges with its clients/distributors, making it a well-rounded and unforgettable experience for the award winners.
Effectiveness and Results
Major distributors of Bic products in Argentina were invited to participate in the Pasaporte Bic 2014 program and only those who reached their goals and increased purchase volume qualified for the main prize – the incentive trip. The impact that the incentive trip generated helped strengthen relationships with customers, and motivated Bic in Argentina to continue the program on an annual base. Despite the economic crisis Argentina has experienced during 2013 and 2014, as a result of the engaging incentive program dealers exceeded the sales forecast for the qualification period by 15%. Throughout the trip fun teambuilding activities were held in conjunction with business meetings to stimulate relationships and build teamwork.
The Creative Approach
Bic's trip to Colombia allowed the group to learn the secrets and treasures of both cities through unconventional elements. “Chivas”, Colombian folkloric traditional vehicles, used for transfers were decorated with handmade items, musicians played during the ride and dancing was encouraged setting a welcoming tone for the trip. Once in the city of Cartagena, surrounded by the ancient walls of the fort era, the group mobilized in old horse carriages. They could appreciate the city´s double charm: daytime offers very colorful images where roads are adorned with flowers, and night hits a romantic tone generated by the charming lighting. A two hour transfer by way of a Catamaran through the shore culminated with arrival at the Restaurant "Club de Pesca". During the ride the group enjoyed snacks, drinks, and dance while a flag with the company logo fluttered in the wind. In Bogotá, the bus trip to the farewell dinner held special surprises for the whole group: Once the passengers were placed in their seats, they were handed a pamphlet entitled "Emergency Rumba". There were rules, similar to those indicated for flight attendants, but in reverse: jumping, dancing, drinking and singing was encouraged. A special packet placed under each seat contained a “vuelteao” hat and a necklace that delegates wore while sipping some of the local rum and blowing on noisemakers. The most exciting and emotional moment was in Zipaquira, a town an hour away from Bogota, in a set of underground mines called the "Salt Cathedral". This is the No. 1 tourist attraction in Colombia, but the group's visit went above and beyond what visitors usually experience. Participants were hosted to a private guided tour at night where they appreciated the altars decorated with sculptures and marble and salt crosses. The ride ended with an unexpected exclusive dinner at a restaurant hidden in the underground landscape, accompanied by a violinist and a music group who entertained the group. For a personal touch, other surprise activities were organized tailored to the group. After the arrival in Bogotá, in front of the Hilton Hotel, the group was interviewed by an actor characterized as an entertainment journalist. The "fake journalist" greeted the participants as celebrity stars, with a backdrop of the fancy neighborhood where the hotel is located which is known to be the home of many famous people .Surprised by such a reception, participants were infected with the euphoria that generated attention and began to sing and dance in front of the camera. During the city tour, the DMC hired actors dressed up as neighbors of the colonial era and surprised the group by reciting poems of Garcia Marquez and singing Argentine tangos in the street.
The program agenda had several surprise activities that the delegates discovered each day adding a touch of excitement and mirroring the group’s ambitious personality. The creative input and operational capacity of the local DMC was important to achieve these unique activities. “Experiance DMC” representatives were the appropriate support creating unforgettable experiences and being able to respond to emerging needs and the unforeseen. Because of the high profile of the trip, the coordination was led by the Vice President of AV Business & Communication and the Experiance directors, who were committed to operational excellence. The main challenges were moving the group between two different cities, arranging the logistics of the flights along with accommodations in two completely different hotels, and choosing lower-polluting transportation for transfers.
The destination enhanced the quantity and quality of tailored activities and provided unforgettable experiences in a most unique setting. Cartagena de Indias, which UNESCO declared a World Heritage site in 1984, hosted the group at the Sofitel Santa Clara, which was built in 1995 on a former convent, this hotel is conveniently located in the heart of Cartagena, so the group could live firsthand the history of the city. Bogotá, with interesting tourist attractions was selected as the second destination. Travel dates were planned to reach Bogota on the weekend.
Three major challenges arose; less than 45 days before the trip the airline cancelled their Buenos Aires-Bogota flight and rescheduled it for a later day. Since all activities and hotels were confirmed and paid for the original dates, AV Business & Communication had to work with another airline to fly according to the original plan. Thanks to the quick management of Avianca's commercial area they were able to get the seats needed for the group without dramaticailly affecting the original budget. On the 6 hour flight from Buenos Aires to Bogota, one of the passengers suffered a health problem causing the airplane to make a quick emergency landing in Bogota to get the passenger on an ambulance and to the hospital accompanied by a representative of the local DMC to ensure stability and comfort. The delay was short and the group connected to Cartagena 3 hours later. In the visit to the "Salt's Cathedral" in Zipaquirá, there was a sudden power outage that affected the general lighting and threatened the band that would perform live during the dinner. AV Business & Communication coordinated with the DMC Experiance to create a unique evening using the light of the miners’ helmets and the violinist and saxophonist played unplugged, providing a more intimate touch to the dinner.
Environmental and Social Responsibility Practices
The whole trip was focused on the implementation of sustainable and environmental experiences. The Hotels selected (Sofitel Legend The Santa Clara and Hilton Bogota) have sustainability policies in the provision of all services and the use of recyclable materials Transportation that did not contaminate the environment was also a priority. One of the transfers to a restaurant in Cartagena was performed with horse drawn carriages avoiding the use of buses and other traditional polluting transports. For a dinner in Cartagena an exclusive catamaran was used as transportation leading to the front of the Restaurant "Club de Pesca". The gifts were all pure local resources: the pillow gift was a kit of traditional Colombian coffees inside an artisan bag. Local actors were hired as the journalist at the Hilton Hotel and the poem reciter in the City Tour.