Incentive travel offers the prospect of new horizons, different cultures and fascinating contrasts with our “normal” everyday lives. A group travel experience encourages business colleagues to forge friendships and bond over shared memories, long after returning home. Destination dreaming provokes the desire to succeed, in order to bring the dreams to life.
A recent survey by C&IT interviewed a number of experts and asked them to identify key issues that affect both the appeal and the management of incentive travel programmes in today’s marketplace. We’ve looked at each of the issues highlighted by the survey and discuss how they affect our industry on a day-to-day level.
5 Key Issues That Affect Incentive Travel Appeal
Choosing an aspirational destination with famous landmarks and a glamorous image does not guarantee an enjoyable experience for the organiser or the guests. If the location is logistically hard to travel to or needs local knowledge to traverse, it can be essential to work with experienced travel industry professionals to manage the programme logistics – even if they remain behind the scenes.
A local operational partner with close relationships with hotels, restaurants, entertainment suppliers and transportation companies is vital to the smooth running of the itinerary.
The power of travel incentives is that their impact is sustained well beyond the trip itself. It is a mistake to sell incentive travel purely as a prize holiday, as that would not deliver the return on investment that should be expected. Making the right impression on the top achievers who qualify for these incentives depends on getting the specification right in the first place.
The C&IT survey cites group travel specialists seeing “a move away from the traditional beach destinations. Instead the demand is for more culturally-connected and experience-driven trips.” As the survey highlights, these do not have to be ‘big ticket’ items, they could be as simple as a game of beach volleyball with the locals or a traditional cooking experience, but authenticity is key.
As with leisure trends generally, travel programmes that enrich the participant’s life experiences are being commissioned more often. Also, with CSR being an important issue for many of the companies that use incentives to improve personal and team performance, clients are demanding ethical, responsible travel solutions. Engaging with local communities and contributing to the social and economic fabric of the destinations, through acts such as planting trees or helping to sort recycling before leaving the destination, can add another rewarding dimension to the incentive experience.
Emotional intelligence is increasingly seen as an essential quality in responsible leadership. The need to consider wellness is reflected in the way that incentive travel and other live events are now being perceived.
When planning event content, it’s important to consider relaxation and exercise options, whilst paying close attention to healthy eating as well as plenty of fun and active involvement in the local environment. Guests on these corporate programmes are generally more conscious of health, exercise and nutrition, but also frequently seek closer engagement with indigenous cultures and customs.
Travel has traditionally been reserved as the prize for top achievers in sales incentives. The broader, more enlightened reward and recognition strategy of a successful company in the 21st Century will often include support and service roles. High ratings for customer satisfaction and market share are never simply the result of selling techniques alone. The quality of the product or service, the company’s ethical standards and an efficient after-sales service are now all recognised as equally important factors.
Including a wider cohort in motivation programmes and giving awards to supporting actors as a well as leading players is the modern management approach. Involving a range of people and recognising their contribution increasingly extends to a wider mix of qualifiers for travel incentives.
The secret to delivering supreme service is in reflecting people’s different tastes, preferences and interests. Managing an incentive travel programme for a group of winners and their partners inevitably includes many collective activities. There is also room, however, to add personal touches to make every individual feel special.
Having a person’s favourite book waiting for them on their bedside table when they first enter their guest room is the sort of gesture that they will never forget. Flowers, drinks, sweets or other food delicacies are all examples of small gifts that can be selected to match a guest’s profile.
The essence of the incentive travel experience is the ability to access to things that money cannot buy for the individual, or that would be beyond their expectations. The personal touch emphasises that they are being recognised for their importance and value to the organisation.