Incentive Travel Budget Savings, Look to Warren Buffett

To stretch an incentive travel budget, to unlock savings for new trip elements, or add a few more winners, the contrarian advice from the most significant investor of the last 50 years, Warren Buffett, gives pointers to meeting planners for incentive travel savings.


“Two super-contagious diseases, fear, and greed will forever occur in the investment community. The timing of these epidemics will be unpredictable.  We simply attempt to be fearful when others are greedy and to be greedy only when others are fearful.”

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In today’s 24-hours-every-day flow of cable news and Twitter feeds the front-page locks onto the same story over and over for a month. Trump election. Russia, Russia, Russia. #MeToo. North Korea.  Hurricane Florence – or Harvey and Irma. The opioid epidemic, tea party, or Occupy Wall Street.  Typically, the same story dominates the headlines – until a new headline pushes it off Page 1.

In the tourism industry, the same is true, but often, it comes with consumer overreaction. The public reads a 1-line internet headline or hears a 30-second story on Good Morning America. The adjectives “sensational” or “incomplete” describes the accuracy of many stories. When the headlines strike a cautionary tone, tourism to the affected destination takes a big punch to the gut.

Incentive Travel Savings Idea

Here’s where a savvy meeting planner can take Mr. Buffett’s contrarian advice and save big bucks – be opportunistic with an eRFP and hotel contract when others are fearful.

Consider these three media over-reactions that come to mind, which create buying opportunities for incentive travel and business meetings.

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Terrorism Nervousness in Major Destinations

Las Vegas suffered the tragic Mandalay Bay massacre, but that contrarian buying opportunity was short-lived. Here is an insightful principle — tourism fears shrink with proximity. Americans got comfortable with Vegas quickly. Heck, 4,000 meeting planners and hoteliers returned one week later for IMEX America.

Paris, Brussels, and Barcelona each experienced terror attacks in recent years. Because Europe is further from America, tourism fears are higher and last longer, which creates incentive travel bargains.

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Mexico Overreaction

Media over-reaction #2 (or for that matter, every other over-reaction) hits our “amigos” (friends) in Mexico. I feel terrible for them. Mexico has the most hospitable culture of genuinely nice, gracious, and pleasant people.

A drug cartel in Cancun or Cabo shoots a bad dude. Tainted alcohol is alleged (at some all-inclusive that gets few groups anyway). Or, the U.S. Department of State updates its travel advisory, and the T.V. says “Mexico travel warning is elevated” – but fails to accurately report that the elevated threats apply to only 5 of 31 states where drug cartel violence is high, and no incentive-quality resorts are nearby.

The news always missed the most important line (or they print it in the last paragraph) – “there are no U.S. government restrictions for travel in… tourist areas of… Cancun, Riviera Maya, Puerto Vallarta, and Los Cabos” Nada!  None!

Of everywhere on the globe, taking Mr. Buffett’s contrarian advice will save you the most in Mexico – because the over-reactions are the highest.

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Big Island Volcano

Media over-reaction #3 is what triggered this blog – the Kilauea volcano eruptions on the Big Island of Hawaii. I was fortunate to visit in the summer and heard cancellations were 50%. Think about that; half of all trips canceled.

My mother-in-law, who watches a high dose of cable news, was quite nervous about me taking her daughter near the red-hot lava. Beyond the lava, the sensational media educated her on the dangers of” vog,” volcanic ash, and chemicals, so she advised we should wear masks while on the beach.

Fact #1 It’s called the “big” island for a good reason. The Kilauea volcano is 75 miles away from the Kohala coast tourist areas and separated by the 13,000 ft Mauna Loa mountain.

Fact #2  No deaths. Two instances of minor injuries. One newspaper headline declared, “Lava Bombs Hits Man’s Leg”. It was a serious leg injury for that man, but this new term “lava bomb” made me chuckle.

Fact #3 I’d been warned about the “serious” air quality problems of vog and volcanic ash.  Yes, the tropical air quality has declined a bit, but it was better than LA, Chicago, Atlanta, NYC, my hometown of Dallas, and every big city.


So, if you see negative news pounding an appealing destination, be wise like Warren Buffett and consider if it’s a short-term over-reaction that creates a buying opportunity for you.

Play around with some “what-if” scenarios on our incentive travel budget calculator and get a better idea of how much you can expect to spend.


Mike May

Author Mike May

President | Author of 12.5 Steps to a Perfect Incentive Program and recognized as one of the Top 25 Most Influential People in the Incentive Industry. Expertise: bucket-list incentive trips, motivational incentive program design, matching event goals with the perfect destination & hotel, cost savings strategies, global channel reward programs, and targeted communications.

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