How to Design Incentive Travel Programs with the Future in Mind

Jul 3, 2019 | Incentive Travel

The incentive travel industry is growing, which is music to our ears. It’s growing to the tune of $78 billion dollars, which is how much the incentive travel industry has contributed to the economy.

We spend more and do more for incentive travel guests. This is due to a variety of reasons. First, there are more people in the workplace than ever before, and they aren’t afraid to switch jobs to find a highly desirable situation. Because of this, employers are recognizing more and more that they need to motivate their teams to retain their high performers. Incentive travel is one of these tools and its high ROI proves its success. As a result, employers are spending more money and some respondents report spending up to $50,000 per person on incentive travel.

There’s no doubt incentive travel is lucrative. But, you must execute your incentive travel programs effectively to show a positive ROI and keep your customers (and their top performers) happy. Forward thinking is a must to future proof your incentive travel programs and keep them desirable. Here are a few tips to ensure your incentive travel program continues to evolve and succeed:

People are motivated differently

Travel is a universal motivator that breaks all barriers, yet people are motivated by different incentives. We work with many Fortune 100 companies that have a robust, multigenerational workforce. We are constantly tasked with creating incentive programs that motivate and reward all employees, regardless of if they just started their career or they are nearing retirement.

It can be challenging to find the right mix of incentives to resonate with all generations, which is why working with a professional is key. For example, we take a close look at the participant demographics before planning an incentive trip. If there are guests who haven’t traveled much in the past, then taking them to a far-away, exotic location might be more stressful than motivating.

The new definition of luxury

We’re seeing a change in incentive travel. People want real experiences that they can’t curate on their own. When they travel, they are especially interested in immersing themselves into the sights and sounds and culture of the destination. We’re finding cultural experiences have a greater impact on employees and the company as a whole.

People are naturally empowered to help the culture around you as you travel, which is why CSR initiatives are also powerful. Attendees want a sense of place. They want to know they are contributing to something bigger while participating in the incentive travel program. Plus, it’s a great way for companies to tie the CSR initiative back to their own vision, mission and values.

Don’t forget the mid-level performers

Oftentimes, companies want to recognize the top 3% of their workforce, and incentive travel programs are built around this key demographic. But what about the others? We want to see more employees enjoying the travel experience, which is why we work with companies to create a secondary program to recognize the top 5-7% of performers. This allows more employees to have access to these experiences and serves as a bigger motivation tool for next year’s incentive program.

Seek up-and-coming locations

The location is the base of your activities and excursions, so choose wisely! Finding the right mix of location to meet the needs of attendees is important. But, you must continue to curate new experiences to keep attendees motivated year after year. That’s why we keep a keen eye on emerging destinations. We watch how the destination evolves and the infrastructure grows to determine if it’s a fit for future incentive trips.

SITE plays a key role in helping identify these up-and-coming destinations. Each year, SITE picks an emerging destination for its Executive Summit, with the goal of breaking down the perceptions associated with these relatively unknown destinations to promote the location as a great place to bring your incentive travel business.

Technology is key

Embracing new technology is important to effectively communicate with your incentive travel program participants. Mobile apps are a mainstay for any quality incentive program and there are fun ways you can incorporate mobile apps to make it a great experience for attendees. You can use mobile apps to help attendees familiarize themselves with the destination and send push notifications to update attendees on their upcoming spa treatment. Moreover, mobile apps eliminate the use of paper, helping you create a sustainable incentive travel program.

But, we often forget that there’s a period of time before you are actually traveling on the trip where you have to motivate employees to work hard to earn the trip. During that time, there are a variety of communication tools that can help, and technology makes this easier. We work with our teams to make sure we are hitting the right audiences at the right time to keep them engaged. From email campaigns to digital postcards with images of their award destination to reminders/teasers about their progress, using technology throughout the incentive program is essential to maintaining incentive program participation and continuously motivating employees. The companies that experience the most engagement are those that offer this communication all year long.

Our product, PerformX, is a great way to leverage technology, engage your employees and keep the incentive experience top-of-mind year-round. The more you can impact the entire eligible base of participants, the more meaningful the incentive program will be. Plus, you’ll be able to show the results and make the case for an increased budget for incentive programs. Technology, like PerformX, helps show that you are driving business results.

More companies are turning to incentive travel as a tool for employee motivation and retention. But, not all incentive travel programs are equal. In order to create an exceptional experience that is future proof, you must be forward thinking and evolutionary. The best incentive travel programs use technology to keep employees engaged throughout the program, include destinations that are exciting and a great fit for attendees, and offer curated experiences that attendees can’t recreate on their own.

If you are interested in watching the entire conversation with Philip Eidsvold, One 10 VP of Strategic Alliances; 2019 SITE President and Heidi Goettemoeller, One10 Senior Event Manager; 2019 SITE Global Young Leader Co-Chair, you can check it out here. 

Are you ready to future-proof your incentive travel programs? Let’s chat. 

Samantha Decker

Samantha Decker

Samantha Decker is the Marketing Director at One10. Decker oversees marketing initiatives for all three of One10’s business segments – travel and events, incentives and recognition and marketing services. Bringing unique marketing experience to One10, Decker has led rebranding and growth efforts for every organization she has been a part of and is a strong advocate that purpose and profits can coexist in business. Decker was named a Corporate Connect 40 Under 40, has been published in industry articles, and is currently a member of Team Women in Minneapolis.
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