Originally posted on https://www.viktorwithak.com/what-is-incentive-travel/
Incentive travel is effectively a travel perk used to incentivize or motivate employees or partners. It is often tied to company goals or top performers. Employee rewards are changing—gone are the days when holiday bonuses were enough to provide year-round motivation. Now it’s all about tangible, non-monetary incentives.
We’ve always known that people want more money, but research over the years has shown that cash isn’t actually the most useful motivator for most employees. There are several reasons why:
All of this makes non-monetary corporate rewards much more effective, and companies are starting to realize it. They’re seeing that when they offer a trip or other enticing prize, people work harder. Employees want to go on that amazing trip that their co-worker earned last year, so they’ll put in the extra hours and effort to get it.
People respond to four basic motivational drivers:
You’ll notice that money isn’t on this list. Sure, it’s useful for making purchases, but it isn’t very motivating on its own. If you really want to get a team working hard for a reward, that prize needs to meet at least one of the above criteria.
Enter incentive trips, also known as event incentives. These company-paid travel experiences, reserved for people who top performers, are becoming increasingly popular as a motivational tool.
That’s because, psychologically, they’re very effective. Incentive trips touch on all four motivational factors:
That’s a lot of benefit for an incentive that can cost a company less than cash bonuses.
Our Travel Incentive Process is Proven
A survey by Expedia and The Center for Generational Kinetics showed that 74% of Americans value experiences over products or things. And travel is one of the most valuable experiences out there, at least according to people’s spending habits. Approximately 57% of all Americans and 65% of millennials are currently saving specifically for travel.
If travel is worth people’s hard-earned money, then it’s definitely going to make an impression if it’s free and they don’t have to make arrangements themselves. After all, 80% of Americans and 87% of Gen Z travelers say booking in one place is helpful. Imagine how helpful it is for them to have someone else do all the work.
Social media and travel are intertwined. More than 35% of Gen Z travelers have picked a destination because they read about it on social media, and 27% of Millennials have gathered opinions on a potential trip via social media before making a decision.
Now think about incentive travel. When team members see their colleagues posting pictures of their big incentive trip to Cancun, they’ll want to have the same experience, too. They’ll start putting in the extra effort to make it next time.
Now that you know what incentive travel programs are and why they’re important, the next step is understanding how the process actually works.
Effective incentive trips are part of a year-long incentive program. If a program is well-designed, you’ll be able to track it through the following phases:
The goal of this whole process is to motivate employees to do their best work. That means the trip has to be one-of-a-kind. It has to be exciting enough that the winners will want to go again, and memorable enough that they’ll keep talking about it in the office, generating buzz for the next trip.
Theoretically, you could offer an incentive trip consisting of plane tickets and a voucher for a few nights in an all-inclusive resort, sent to the winners via email. But that wouldn’t be a group trip, and it wouldn’t have a hands-on feel or team-building potential.
The group experience is an essential element of incentive trips. It’s what creates a feeling of community among the travelers, inspiring them to reminisce together later, which will generate free publicity for the next trip.
To make the most of the team bonding and vacation elements of the experience, incentive trips should include group excursions, activities, and relaxing meals.Whenever possible, the itinerary should feature experiences that employees can’t get anywhere else; “exclusive access” is always a good phrase to see on an incentive travel itinerary.
If you have a younger team, you’ll probably have incentive trips that involve adventure travel or exploration. Older teams might skew toward sightseeing or guided tours. If your team is mixed, you’ll need to have activities planned that will appeal to those who want to “do” as well as those who want to “see.”
Picture this: Three nights and two full days in Hawaii. In addition to traditional experiences like a luau, surfing lessons, and a private seaside dinner, you and your employees get to:
By the time you get home, you’ll be so in love with the trip that you’ll already be working toward next year’s.
But maybe you and your team are more interested in a city vacation. How about a long weekend in New Orleans?You could ask your trip planner to arrange:
Wherever you go, your trip planner can choose the right activities and a destination that is perfect for your team.
Incentive travel programs, like the travel industry in general, have tried-and-true hit destinations as well as trendy picks that get a lot of buzz.
Perennially popular destinations include places like Hawaiiand New Orleans, both of which are exotic enough to be exciting, but don’t involve the complex logistics and high costs of international travel. It’s also hard to go wrong with iconic cities like New York, Chicago, or San Francisco.
You may have noticed that the majority of these destinations are in warmer areas of the country; winter and early spring are traditionally popular times for incentive trips, and there’s more for your group to do if you’re not stuck indoors.
Of course, some people and teams thrive on cold-weather adventures. Those teams might enjoy incentive ski trips to Colorado or even to Europe if you really want to go upscale.
Urban destinations are popular with all generations, so a city adventure will usually be a win with any crowd. You’ll want a city that offers:
Hospitality and entertainment are easy to find in big-city destinations, but affordability is tougher. Bear in mind that you risk getting a “been there, done that” reaction with some of the tried-and-true cities, especially with younger employees that prefer undiscovered hole-in-the-wall locations.
These days, second-tier cities are the trendiest destinations in domestic incentive travel programs.
Loosely defined as cities with under a million residents, second-tier cities are becoming increasingly popular home bases for Millennials and Gen Z-ers, thanks to a high level of affordability and opportunities for cultural revitalization. For example:
The options are endless if you know where to look.
If your team needs something a bit more exotic with a more immediately impressive name, it could be time to go international.
Argentina and Iceland are among the trendiest international destinations, and they’re great for incentive travel programs. They offer culturally authentic experiences, highly photogenic scenery, and that “get-away” feeling that can only come from visiting somewhere really out of the ordinary.
Because they’re not Paris or Rome, these destinations tend to be a bit more affordable and budget-friendly for the sponsoring company. That’s a major selling point if you want the incentive travel program to be sustainable.
Once you’ve decided where to go, it’s time to start thinking about who to send.
This part of the process deserves careful consideration. After all, if you’re offering something as big as a trip, you have to make sure it’s awarded fairly.
You can gear your program toward individual high performers or entire teams. The right choice will depend on your program goals as well as what kind of competition you want to encourage.
Incentive travel is a win-win situation for everyone involved, from the sponsoring company to the lucky travelers.
Best of all, it’s accessible to companies of all sizes. You don’t have to be a Fortune 500 corporation! Just contact the pros at VIKTOR and let them help you choose a destination and itinerary that’s perfect for your company’s budget and culture. Get started today and learn about all the places you could go.
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