ICATS = “An Incredibly Successful Casino Promotion”
by Steve Karoul

Those are the words that every casino marketing executive wants to hear. Every casino marketing executive continually looks for the ideal promotion that will bring lots of customers through the doors of their casino. A recent casino promotion at one casino was classified as “An incredibly successful promotion” by their customers. It not only attracted large numbers of invited players during an otherwise slow weekend but also ran seamlessly from a delivery and fulfillment standpoint. Wow, what do you need to do to motivate thousands of invited players who have received and seen everything to actually come to your casino?

The answer is simple. Offer something of value and something that they view as different and appealing. Casino customers are constantly bombarded with match play coupons, bonus slot play, double points, free food, free shows, etc. from not only your casino but from competitor casinos too. After a while, the repetitive offers become unexciting or lose their appeal. We have all seen this happen at one time or another in each of our respective casinos.

There are reputable companies such as Atrium Enterprises, the new business development arm of LVI/Thomas Cook, one of the world’s largest travel companies. LVI/Thomas Cook Travel is publicly traded on the London Stock Exchange generating over $13 billion per year in travel related sales. Atrium Enterprises works in tandem with LVI/Thomas Cook to create custom travel incentive products that drive new customer acquisition, enhance brand loyalty and develops customer and employee retention marketing solutions that focus on proven engagement strategies. LVI/Thomas Cook provides wholesale travel to most of the leading online travel portals like Expedia, Orbitz, Travelocity and others.

I had heard a little bit previously about incentive travel but I did not fully understand it so we set up a meeting to discuss it. I was intrigued when they presented a new product called the ICAT (International Companion Airline Ticket) and how they work. The voucher or travel certificates were priced so low that I almost found them hard to believe until I began to understand certain similarities between their business and the casino business. LVI/Thomas Cook is basically in the gambling business just like us. Companion Airline Ticket certificates work on the “breakage percentage” or a calculated estimate of what percentage of customers that receive them will actually redeem them. Leveraging their enormous buying power with major airline carriers, the cost of airline tickets actually used are at deeply discounted pricing, making their business model workable as well as extremely attractive for casino promotions.
This new casino promotion was a first introduction of the ICAT as well as the initial promotion specifically created by Atrium with LVI/Thomas Cook Atrium for a casino incentive travel promotion. In other words, it was innovative and the host casino was going to be the first casino to offer such to their players. The casino wanted it to be different and they wanted it to be successful. Therefore they opted to introduce the ICAT to their invited guests where they could experience “The Gift of Travel Savings” by purchasing one ticket and then receiving a FREE Companion Airline Ticket as a gift. In addition, they decided to develop three different ICAT certificates at three different costs so that they could offer the same promotion to three different market segments within their customer database on the same weekend thereby offering additional efficiencies. The first tier was targeted at the mass market, low level player. The second tier was targeted at the mid-level player and the third tier, which was created specifically for the host casino with this promotion, was targeted at their top tier high-roller type players as well as their top Asian players. Satisfying Asian players was a high priority with this particular casino. Each level companion airline certificate came at a different cost structure but the benefits to their customers also varied slightly with each of the three certificates.

Their customers liked the fact that there were no blackout dates. Even their top VIP players and Asian players were impressed because their voucher was structured for worldwide travel. The features were:
- International destinations in Asia including Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai, Singapore, and Seoul, Korea; to Europe including London, Paris, Madrid, Rome, Berlin as well as Mexico, Puerto Rico and Canada.
- Single step product. No registration. Just call a special 800 # to book.
- No blackout dates at all throughout the entire year.
- Up to $50.00 reimbursement for luggage charges on the customer’s first trip.
- Certificate can actually be used up to 4 times in one year.
- Fully transferable one time prior to use.
- No Saturday night stay required for domestic flights.
- Travel to more than 100 U.S. cities, including Honolulu
- One year expiration date on the certificate
- A personalized casino website designed to answer all questions.

Wow, their customers were impressed. It almost sounded too good to be true. The Atrium Enterprises staff and senior management of LVI/Thomas Cook worked very closely with the casino’s Special Events and Promotions staff and were available to answer questions. It was great teamwork. They actually encouraged their players to go online and price out the travel against any of the major online air ticket services such as Expedia, Orbitz and Travelocity, etc. to check the prices and see the savings. Basically there were no surprises and also no complaints. The casino marketing team took the time in advance of the promotion to very carefully determine what would appeal to their customers and what would they want to have if they were the recipients of such a gift. It is important to encourage your staff to always think like a customer. This particular casino has a large Asian customer base so they made sure that they offered a nice selection of Asian countries along with the major capital cities in Europe as well as more than 100 different cities within the United States. They allowed for the certificate to be transferable so that the customers could gift it to a son or daughter in college, in the military or to any other family members or friends. They allowed for the certificates to be used multiple times for up to four times during the year which again, added additional high perceived value to the gift.

To make the event even more fun and exciting, Atrium Enterprises arranged for a large number of additional travel incentives to be donated by LVI/Thomas Cook for the event. They included a Free Cruise for Two Grand Prizes and thousands of Companion Cruise Certificates which their customers loved. The extra incentive gifts were given away via a random lucky draw. They were able to get cruises from Carnival Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean Cruise Line, Norwegian Cruise Line and Celebrity Cruise Line. They also arranged for a large number of additional free lucky draw prizes donated by some of the other travel related companies that they work with including a MedFlash Personal Health Record for travelers. Their customers viewed this small additional gift as something of valuable since many of their customers are seniors and health issues are always of concern when traveling.
The one other interesting fact that really helped insure the overall success was that Atrium Enterprises developed a branded website at no cost to host casino to answer all questions that a customer (and employees) might have. The website was branded as XXXX Dream Travel to coordinate with their tiered players club. The website has a Welcome page, a How to Use page, a Travel Destination page that contains all zones, cities and prices, a F.A.Q’s page that answers all of the most frequently asked questions and finally, a Terms & Conditions page that clearly

Date Posted: 05-Jul-2011

Steve Karoul is a highly respected casino consultant as well as lecturer and author. Steve has lived in numerous countries and has conducted casino marketing activities in over 100 different countries. Steve is a recognized gaming industry innovator who openly shares his ideas with fellow casino executives to help develop and improve the gaming industry. Steve may be reached at skaroul@comcast.net or www.euroasiacasino.com

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