The Site International Foundation recently appointed Mark Bondy, Partner and President of VIKTOR Incentives & Meetings, to serve in the critical role of Research Chair. Site Source had a chance to talk to Mark about the value of industry research—and what professionals can do with the findings. Here's what he had to say:
Site Source: How did you get your start in the industry?
Mark Bondy: Like many people in our industry, I started my journey in this industry by following a passion for travel, not quite knowing where I’d end up. I’d traveled a bit during my youth in the U.S. but after enjoying a family trip to Spain in 1979 as part of an organized group, I was hooked!
Upon completing my business degree in 1980 (the Last Great Recession), there were no jobs in Michigan so I packed up my car, my dog, and my skis and headed for Aspen, Colorado. After gaining experience in a world-renowned resort on the hospitality side of the business and after a two-year stint in sales management at a major Midwestern U.S. Tour Operator, I used the connections I had made in the industry to move into the incentive travel arena in 1986.
Beginning in sales but also striving to understand the operational side of an incentive travel company, I eventually followed a desire to apply my business school knowledge and purchased a fairly small but well-established incentive company in my home state. I am blessed to live in a beautiful place like Traverse City, Michigan, and it has been such a pleasure to have the opportunity to build upon and create new success. That notion is really what our industry is all about – building successful business together.
Site Source: Why do you feel industry-specific research is so important?
Mark Bondy: The incentive travel industry is almost a hidden industry, lost in the shuffle of the travel industry as a whole and within the broader realm of marketing. Many times, those of us who describe what we do are met with blank stares until we describe the type of travel experience we create. Then the light goes off and the person you are talking to recalls a friend or relative who “won a trip” from their company.
Those of us within the industry inherently know the tremendous impact that incentive marketing, or what has become more recently described as a part of engagement, has on business. We help businesses grow, prosper, and drive economic activity. However, there has still been relatively little published to prove it. Even the academic community, particularly in business schools, which should be proponents based upon the theory, has not done much to research and validate it, let alone teach it.
Only recently, in the last 10 to 15 years, particularly after a bashing in the media and in Washington, has it become a priority by some of us to educate others and focus on learning so we can continue to elevate what we do beyond the simple excitement of a unique travel experience or earning other non-travel awards and communicate its value as a business tool.
Site Source: Sometimes we hear people say that the research is nice and interesting but they don’t know what to do with the findings. So what is your advice on how your colleagues should use the research?
Mark Bondy: First of all, get involved! Don’t just sit back and wait for a white paper or survey results to hit the mark for whatever need you might have at a given time. Do something by becoming a student of our trade and by sharing and advocating the reasons why businesses use the motivational and engagement tools our industry provides:
- Volunteer to serve the industry by offering your opinions on surveys such as the Site Index sponsored by the Site International Foundation.
- Participate at educational events which share and explain the findings beyond the written words in an Executive Summary of a study.
- Share your knowledge, your experiences, and the experiences of your clients who have benefited from this powerful marketing tool. Too often we hoard our success stories and data because we’re concerned our competition will use it unfairly. The more critical information we can share, the more we will all benefit in total as an industry.
- Contact me about joining my committee or at least contact me with ideas for research that is pertinent to you and your company’s success. Let me do what I can and let others who are pursuing the same goal produce research that you know will benefit you and others like you.
As a 24-year member of Site, I’m an example of “you get out of it what you put into it.” Eventually, once you become involved and actively help us create the kind of findings that are useful, you will indeed benefit from it. You’ll learn much more what is available for your use and you’ll begin to determine exactly what to do with the findings.
Be a part of the solution instead of just searching for it. In turn you will help better train your colleagues, increasingly engage your customers, and create more success for yourself, your company, and our industry.