There are many advantages to buying incentive travel gifts and conference goodie bags locally in the destination you are going. Of course, there are some risks too, but with a plan and a good partner; the risks can easily be mitigated.
We’ve been working with corporate groups to do their incentive gifts for the last 14 years; primarily in Puerto Rico, but also throughout the Caribbean. In that time, there are a couple of things we learned and certainly have an opinion on.
Our reasons for gifting locally boil down to these:
Buying Locally- The Moral Reasons
The Buy Local movement has grown significantly over the last several years and has shown that it strengthens local communities, local economies, and reduce the environmental impact. To see how this all works visually, check out this awesome infographic here. It may be difficult to convince decision-makers that these abstract concepts are more important than pricing… however, particularly when visiting International destinations, it is important to remember how truly important each dollar is to the local economy. In the Caribbean, tourism and travel dollars are the majority of an island’s GDP, and incomes are very low; so spending locally really does make a large impact.
Your group just travelled a long way (and worked a long time) to qualify for this trip. They can get a company-logo’d hat, bag, or cup at the Annual Company Picnic. Give them something that really represents the destination they are in and really speaks to them and their memories.
Strengthens Local Communities and Economy
Several studies have shown that when you buy from an independent, locally owned business, rather than a nationally owned businesses, significantly more of your money is used to make purchases from other local businesses, service providers and farms — continuing to strengthen the economic base of the community (Source: http://sustainableconnections.org/thinklocal/why)
Reduces environmental impact
Locally owned businesses can make more local purchases requiring less transportation and generally set up shop in town or city centers as opposed to developing on the fringe. This generally means contributing less to sprawl, congestion, habitat loss and pollution. (Source: http://sustainableconnections.org/thinklocal/why)
Buying Locally – The Practical Reasons
If the moral reasons aren’t enough to convince, then there are many practical reasons that make working locally a feasible and advantageous option. Below we have outlined a few of them, which all add up to Saved Costs!
Storage and Warehousing
Many hotels have requirements about when your goods can arrive at the hotel and charge storage fees. It can often be tricky to ensure that your packages are arriving early enough, but not too early. Buying locally eliminates this problem, as local companies will generally store items until you are ready to receive them at the hotel and hand-deliver them.
The price of shipping just keeps on going up, and will for the foreseeable future. USPS has raised rates 3 times in the last two years and plans to do so again in 2013. UPS and FedEx are also continuing to raise rates and add on additional fees. The price of oil and materials costs also continues to squeeze the shipping industry and cargo rates. Well, the advantage of buying locally is that there is no shipping. Even if there is some shipping involved, a local company has established relationships and shipping routes in place that make it more cost-effective to ship than a one-time occurrence.
Customs, Duties & Taxes
Customs and import duties can often increase the cost of a gift exponentially, depending on the item chosen to ship in. For example, Jamaica has a 150% duty on cigars. Each country is different and many of the rules are not clearly spelled out, so it’s nearly impossible to guess correctly on pricing. A couple of years ago, we shipped in some picture frames to the Dominican Republic. The customs told us it should be filed under one code. Well, it arrived and they said that the code was usable, but should have been a different one, and before you knew it, the cost of duties was double what they had been estimated, and it would take an additional 3 weeks in customs of we wanted to change the code. Let’s face it, getting items through customs is a crapshoot and the odds are stacked against you. We ourselves avoid customs and generally try to support local artisans and suppliers at the destination for this very reason.
- When doing price comparisons, make sure to compare pricing “door-to-door”. Oftentimes, something seems cheaper until you calculate in the real costs of shipping.
- Be flexible on your gifting item. There are always great locally sourced gifts, but perhaps not in the category and style that you had envisioned. Be flexible and consider a different type of gift.
- Consider mentioning that the gift item was purchased locally and the reasons behind doing so. This provides an added feel-good bonus.
- Sometimes you are contractually obligated to purchase from certain suppliers. Consider asking them to partner locally to get you what you want or alternately – use both! See if you can purchase what you need from your long-term partner and then ship it in early to your local supplier to add in their portions and finish of the gift presentation.
- Find a partner to assist: the best ones to work with are a reputable Gift Company, Promotional Products supplier, or a Destination Management Company (DMC)