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Premium Incentive Products Magazine - Products and Ideas That Inspire Performance
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Motivate Top Performers With Luggage & Travel Goods

When it comes to trends in travel goods these days, the name of the game is convenience. Whether it's easing passage through the airport with luggage scales that keep you in-the-know before you get charged for an overweight bag and spinner wheels and lighter weights that make it easier to maneuver, or simplifying every other aspect of travel with built-in chargers so you don't have to fight for an outlet and hardsided cases that protect your gear, the latest features and functions are all about easing the headaches of travel.

George Cassius, president of Earth Gear Corp., in Brooklyn, N.Y., which offers a variety of luggage and travel-related accessories to the incentive market, said that the segment is growing, citing a study from the Travel Goods Association that shows luggage sales up 94.2 percent in the United States from 2003 to 2015, and adds that "convenience" is what drives most of the developments in the industry. He called out a number of updates and existing features, from smart luggage that incorporates scales, tracking devices and charging capabilities to lighter weights and easier-moving wheels as examples.

When you add the latest luggage and travel gear to your incentive program, you will be bound to please both savvy travelers and those who tend to stay close to home. Luxury brands that allow seasoned travelers to upgrade their style, nested sets that expand a family's packing options, smart gear that lets your sales force charge on-the-go—the myriad options combine to create strong appeal. As such, they are an essential piece of your incentive merchandise mix.

"Travel goods and luggage continue to show strong sales within premium incentive programs," said Kenneth Fishman, director of purchasing for Rymax Marketing Services Inc., in Pine Brook, N.J. "The more you travel, the quicker your luggage is bound to wear out. By offering excellent quality luggage brands like Victorinox, Tumi and Hartmann as redeemable rewards, individuals will look to upgrade their travel goods without overspending at the store."

"Integrated weight indicators that are built right into the bag are a nice touch to make sure the traveler doesn't incur any surprise overweight charges," said Chad Glamann, marketing manager for Top Brands Inc. in Oshkosh, Wis. "Nothing beats a well-crafted carry-on that features TSA-friendly tech compartments, an increased capacity and smooth-rolling wheels that can make the difference between a trip to remember or a nightmare you want to forget."

Travel goods and luggage continue to show strong sales within premium incentive programs.

Fishman echoed that sentiment: "Traveling can be a joy or pain," he said, "and the luggage you use to tote your stuff determines that outcome. While manufacturers are continuously making advancements in materials and design, suitcases haven't changed as much. But luggage is finally getting smarter, and the options for connected suitcases and other related gadgets is growing. Not only are luggage manufacturers continuously striving to produce lighter choices while maintaining product durability, but they have developed built-in scales, GPS trackers and mobile apps that can make your traveling experience less harrowing."

"Professionals are looking for luggage pieces that are not only functional, but are also stylish and refined," Glamann said. "Travel goods will always be in demand in any incentive program because everybody in the professional world travels, either for business or leisure or both. Luggage is one of those categories that is always evolving, with lighter and lighter materials being used and innovative new features being added all the time. With all of these new developments comes the demand from award-winners to always want the newest and hottest pieces on the market."

Get Smart

Cassius also called out smart luggage as a new and exciting trend. Earth Gear offers a 21-inch Travelpro bag that allows you to insert your own battery that can then provide power to charge up your devices.

"That way, when you're traveling, instead of fighting everybody at the airport, you can just plug right in," he said. "I don't have to depend on the availability of an outlet because if I take my luggage, I can charge my phone."

But charging isn't the only "smart" feature, he said. "Everything is built in," Cassius added. "You don't have to look for anything. This piece has everything built into it: location tracking, remote lock, digital scale—all of this is built in."

Available through Earth Gear, the Travelpro Crew 11 21-inch Expandable Spinner is wired for travelers on the go. With an external USB port that allows you to connect any USB device to the Power Bank that is stored in a dedicated pocket, this carry-on also comes well-equipped with multiple patented features. These include MagnaTrac self-aligning spinner wheels, the contour grip and the PowerScope extension handle. Made of a rugged, fashionably textured ballistic nylon fabric with leather carry handles, Crew is offered in Black and Indigo and is backed by a limited lifetime warranty.

Material Matters

Hardsided luggage has been trending up for the past several years, and continues to do so, but soft-sided luggage continues to remain a popular choice.

"The most popular luggage choices are between soft-side ballistic nylon and hardside polycarbonate luggage, which offer different levels of protection and weight," Fishman said.

"One of the biggest trends this year is sophisticated and modern-looking hardsided luggage that has split book openings, which provide multiple packing compartments on the inside," Glamann said.

"Hardside is trending," Cassius agreed. "Lightweight polycarbonate is what you want. Some cases are made of 100 percent polycarbonate and some are a mixture of that and other materials. We do a lot of business in this classification both with TravelPro and Zero Halliburton."

Since 1938, Zero Halliburton has been designing iconic luggage, stylish attaches and lightweight polycarbonate travel cases for professionals and serious travelers. Shown here is the newly launched ZRO 22-inch Carry-On 4-Wheel Spinner Travel Case, available through Earth Gear. Each ZRO case is made in the USA, using imported materials, and provides plenty of packing space with an uber-organized and flexible interior. The ZRO Collection is available in four sizes, and comes in gold, gunmetal (shown) or silver.

Available through Premium Bag, you can travel in style with the versatile Bob Mackie Four wheeler hard side spinner luggage set. Constructed of sturdy PAP material, a mix of polycarbonate and ABS, this set includes 25-inch and 20-inch wheeling upright Pullmans, each fully lined and featuring retractable handle system and four wheels for easy maneuvering. Each piece has push-button trolley system, durable and smooth four wheels, top and side handles, TSA lock and full lining with zipper compartment and pocket inside.

Of course, weight continues to matter, with airlines charging flyers who go over the limit. And with many folks choosing to carry-on, lighter weights make it easier to get bags through the airport and into the overhead compartment.

The V3 collection, Tumi's lightest-ever hardside luggage offering, will raise the bar for design and technology excellence and set a new standard for the future of travel. A clear-cut expression and display of Tumi's design leadership, V3 showcases a balance between performance, structure, strength and aerodynamics. Designed for travelers who value Tumi for its time-tested endurance, these bags are constructed from a multi-layer polycarbonate shell, engineered to offer unparalleled strength and impact resistance at a very light weight. The flexibility of the material allows for maximum resistance to cold impact cracking and corner crushing, while the contoured exterior ensures resiliency and reduces signs of wear. Raised, molded rubber bumpers placed on either side of the case add additional protection to the exterior, making these wheelaways the consummate travel companion for any adventure.

Colorwise, Cassius and Fishman agree that black continues to take the lead. "Colors are still trending upward, but will not overtake the basic colors any time soon," Fishman said.

"Black is still king of the runway," Glamann agreed, "but vivid colors like teal and fuchsia are really starting to show up a lot more. Texture is playing a really strong role in the overall aesthetic of hard-sided pieces, with diamond-shaped grain textures that resist scratching becoming very prevalent. A lot of soft-sided luggage collections are incorporating European sophistication by using faux leather accents and luxurious textures on the inside."

With refined lines, vivid color options and an elegant finish, the Comete collection from Delsey, available through Top Brands, creates a striking look. The Delsey Comete 3 Piece Set features a carry-on, as well as 24-inch and 28-inch Spinner luggage. The set is made from durable and lightweight ABS material and features a diamond-shaped grained texture for scratch resistance. The fully lined interior offers two full packing compartments and four spinner wheels provide multidirectional mobility.

He added, "As for the most popular option, soft-side luggage wins, being that it is more flexible and expandable than hardside. If you're traveling and you know you will be bringing back more than what you left with, an expandable case will be your best option rather than buying a second suitcase."

A natural evolution of Tumi's iconic Alpha Legacy collection, Alpha 2 represents the next generation of intelligent travel. Crafted from Tumi's patented FXT ballistic nylon, a symbol of durability and quality, Alpha 2 styles boast more than 30 upgrades and 14 patents for a lighter and more spacious design.

On the Move

Wheels also still continue to make a difference in ease of travel, with four spinner wheels being more maneuverable than a two-wheeled case. Some cases, Cassius said, have up to eight wheels, and there are even wheels, he said, that are designed to roll more quietly. "Some people don't like the noise of the wheels," he said.

Available through Incentive Concepts, the Briggs & Riley BU221SPW-44-BRX Explore Wide-Body Spinner (shown here in Blue) makes navigating those narrow airplane aisles and sharp city turns easier. A lightweight carry-on with four double swivel wheels for effortless 360-degree navigation and in a short-and-wide configuration favored by international travels, the case is backed, like all Briggs & Riley luggage and business case collections, with a "Simple as that" warranty, which even covers damage caused by an airline.

All Together Now

Sets continue to be a popular addition in incentive programs. In some cases, sets can be broken up to create a continuity program, or you can simply offer a set so a program participant can meet all their packing needs in one go.

Embracing French sophistication with smart organization options, the Delsey Montmartre 3 Piece Set, available through Top Brands, features faux leather accents and a deluxe soft-touch interior. The set includes a carry-on, and 25-inch and 29-inch luggage. The side easy-access compartment is accessible from both inside and outside the case and is perfect for shoes, a sweater or return-home laundry. A laptop sleeve in the carry-on helps you stay connected while you travel, while the bi-fold suiter in the 25-inch and 29-inch luggage helps keep your clothing wrinkle-free.

Duffels, Backpacks & Briefcases, Oh My!

Of course, suitcases and carry-ons aren't the only way to tote your gear from place to place. Duffels and backpacks—and even packing trunks—can be useful options. In fact, backpack sales, according to information from the Travel Goods Association, are up 224.9 percent from 2003 to 2015.

The Piel Leather Large Buckle-Flap Backpack is handmade in Colombia, South America, with full-grain Colombian cowhide. This genuine leather buckle flap-over backpack features an easy thumb release opening to a large drawstring compartment. The main compartment includes an interior zippered pocket and a small zip-pocket on the flap. Additional features include two front gusseted pockets with hidden buckle thumb clasp, side phone pocket, top handle for easy carrying and adjustable padded straps. Sold blank with debossing and embroidery imprint options available, this customizable backpack is perfect for your next event. It is available in Saddle Brown, Black or Chocolate Brown.

The Briggs & Riley Z150-5-Kinzie Street Simple Duffle, available through Incentive Concepts, is the ultimate overnighter. This versatile Simple Duffle is the extended-layover meets casual-weekend-stay. A cavernous main compartment encourages you to pack absolutely everything, plus a little something extra. Briggs & Riley backs its high-quality luggage and business case collections with a "Simple as that" warranty, the most comprehensive lifetime guarantee in the industry, which even covers damage caused by an airline.

In addition, briefcases are still a necessity for many travelers. This option, also, has been upgraded with new features.

"Most luggage manufacturers offer laptop cases, which meet the TSA checkpoint requirements," Fishman said. "These cases, like the Tumi Alpha 2 T-Pass laptop brief, allow you to go through security without removing your laptop from the case. The design innovation, engineering, functionality and performance of the Tumi Alpha 2 T-Pass elevates your travel and business experience to the next level."

Available through D&H, Mobile Edge Sumo The Tech Briefcase is a slim and stylish brief-style case constructed of vegan leather. It provides padded protection for a laptop or tablet. It also offers extra storage space for books, files, work papers, magazines and other items. The padded fur-lined pocket protects an iPad or other tablet from bumps and scratches.

Pack It Up

Luggage sets continue to be a popular addition in incentive programs.

"Today, people are looking at functionality and style," Fishman said. "Incentive programs need to offer both the individual luggage, as well as sets."

He added, "Travelers are out in the market for quality, durable suitcases that are well-designed and easy to commute with. The frame, fabric and waterproofing are important in the construction of a suitcase that travelers crave. Some brands have a reputation for standing behind the quality of their bags…"

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