Feature Article - November/December 2014

Travel in Style

The Most Motivational Luggage & Travel Goods

By Emily Tipping

Among the many indicators that show a strengthening economy in the United States, business travel is up. In fact, according to a leading travel industry forecast from the Global Business Travel Association, U.S.-generated business travel spending is expected to increase 6.8 percent in 2014—to a grand total of $292.3 billion. And, the U.S. Travel Association reports that after travel took a hit in the recession, the future looks rosy.

With more people taking to plane, train and automobile to get around, luggage and other travel-related merchandise is sure to be a hit with your audience for incentives and rewards. What better way to motivate someone looking forward to some time away than the very things that will make it easier to get from here to there?

"With the economy continuing to mend, business travel and traveling for pleasure is picking up again, and the number of people traveling is growing," said Kenneth Fishman, purchasing manager at Rymax Marketing Services. "Last year nearly 94.5 million people traveled for the holiday season, and that number is going to continually increase.

"Luggage has traditionally been and continues to be a strong performer in incentive and rewards programs," he added. "Almost everyone travels, whether it be via train, plain or car, and needs a convenient way to bring their personal belongings with them. Having brand-name, top-of-the-line luggage products to ease the stress of travel is important to almost every generation, making it a great item to include in a mix of rewards and incentive programs because it fills a need that many of your participants have. It also reinforces trophy value, given that every time they travel they see their reward and remember how they earned the reward."

Norma Jean Knollenberg, CEO and owner of Top Brands, agreed. "Luggage and travel goods make a great fit in an incentive program because of the durable nature of the product and the amount of use an average piece of luggage sees," she said. "There is a long-lasting connection that is made with the sponsoring company and the participant that received the luggage piece that endures long after the incentive program may have ended. Every time that piece of luggage is used, it serves as a reminder of the achievement that individual accomplished to earn it."

"Offering luggage and travel goods benefits incentive programs by providing the consumer with the ability to redeem for a variety of travel-related products, whether that be tablet protection covers, headsets, travel bags, luggage pieces, etc.," Fishman added. "When a company arranges for their employees or clients to travel, presenting them with a gift that makes their traveling comfortable, welcoming and easy automatically raises appreciation and furthers the connection that individual has with the company that rewarded them."

Meeting Demand

According to the Travel Goods Association, sales of travel goods in 2013 surpassed pre-recession levels, with U.S. consumers spending around $29.5 billion, an increase of 17.2 percent from 2012. At the same time, though, the association said that volume sales had fallen among such items—made up of everything from luggage, backpacks and travel/sports bags to business cases, computer bags, handbags, personal leather goods and luggage locks. It was higher prices that made the difference in 2013, as many consumers went for better quality merchandise from brands that know how to meet their demands.

And what are those demands? Lighter weights, more space for packing, maneuverability and more continue to be in high demand, given the ongoing struggles with airline fees for checked bags and overweight bags.

"Consumers continue to demand luggage that provides dedicated space for electronics, phones and tablets," said Chad Glamann, marketing manager for Top Brands Inc. "Locking wheels to prevent drifting, like those available on the new Delsey Chatelet collection, are a feature that travelers have had a real positive response to. High-tech luggage tags that incorporate an RFI system to easily track lost or missing luggage is becoming more commonplace and easier to implement now with the proliferation of the technology in smartphone use. Of course, weight and size are always a priority, so we will continue to see trends in reducing total weight and size as airlines continue to enforce stricter limits on both."

Billie Reise, director of marketing for Incentive Concepts, agreed, adding that " lightweight and spinner wheels are popular, and recently we have seen that bright colors are trending."

Everyone has their own individual preference when traveling, whether that means always checking a bag or never checking a bag, selecting basic black or a bright patterned hardsided case. So, when you're putting together a lineup of luggage and travel gear for your incentive program, you'll want to cater to a wide range of styles and preferences.

This month, we canvassed incentive industry experts who offer luggage and travel gear to the market in order to find out what's most in demand, and what will work best in your program.