Corporate incentive travel is back. With a rebounding travel industry, some relief in supply chain backups, and lifted travel restrictions, more companies today are offering reward trips for their leadership and top performers.
After two years of canceled events and hybrid gatherings, incentive travel has made a comeback in 2022 and is trending upward in 2023. In addition to missing the enjoyment of gathering with colleagues away from the office, there’s been a collective shift in prioritizing experiences over cash-only awards. According to the Incentive Research Foundation (IRF), 78% of millennials would choose to spend money on an experience or event over buying something desirable.
As millennials are fast becoming the largest demographic and are on track to make up 75% of the global workforce by 2025, they’re a segment worth targeting—and travel experiences are an excellent strategy for engaging them.
Why incentive travel is good for business
It’s no secret that incentive programs directly correlate to employee satisfaction and productivity. In fact, organizations that provide non-cash rewards such as incentive travel have three times higher revenue increases. (Aberdeen Research)
Not only can incentive programs boost staff performance by anywhere from 25 to 44% (Incentive Research Foundation), but travel rewards are integral to successful recruitment, retention, and employee engagement initiatives. For companies looking to remain competitive in a tight labor market, incentive travel is now an essential part of a standout benefits package.
Beyond an attractive perk, awarding travel incentives is also good for your team’s health and well-being. Studies show that travel helps reduce stress and boost creativity and productivity. Corporate travel experiences can give your top performers the break they need to recharge and avoid burnout, so they return to the office energized and motivated.
Tips for planning successful incentive trips in 2023
If you’re responsible for planning and managing incentive travel for your team, consider these updated tips to help create a standout experience:
Choose easy-to-reach destinations.
North American bucket list travel destinations are on the top of event planners’ lists heading into next year. According to data from Cvent and the IRF, Hawaii and the Caribbean are the most popular spots, closely followed by the Western U.S.
According to an IRF survey measuring incentive travel destination preferences, 67% of qualifiers want to go somewhere they’ve never been before, so the scope of travel destinations could likely expand down the road.
Here’s a list of top US incentive travel destinations to get you started
Appeal to millennials and Gen Z.
The top three destination types for corporate incentives are beach/sunshine, adventure, and mountain areas. But with more millennials and Gen Z making their way onto qualifiers’ lists, a more significant push toward adventure trips appeals to this rising demographic.
We know that millennials are less concerned about salary and more focused on other employee benefits such as work-life balance and company culture—and travel is among those desirable experience-driven benefits.
Create a flexible program schedule.
To make the trip feel like an actual vacation, be thoughtful not to make the agenda too structured. Instead, build in flexibility, allowing attendees to select excursions or other experiences—on their own or with the group. And prioritize free time, giving people the freedom to unwind and relax.
Make it personal.
We’ve become accustomed to personalized experiences, from shopping to customer service follow-up. And a travel experience should be no different. Be intentional about creating elements of your program that cater to your team members’ interests and talents, whether it’s a gift item, an activity, or other accommodations.
Curate thoughtful giveaways.
To create a memorable incentive trip experience, don’t overlook the takeaways: Custom boxes with branded apparel and gift items—these specialty elements create an added dimension to the trip and give attendees a tangible takeaway.
Consider offering an onsite product showcase and giveaway that tracks with the destination or program theme—a Ray-Ban sunglass fitting on the beach or a Patagonia jacket shopping experience at the lodge. Here’s an example of a custom product fitting experience we managed for our client on their corporate incentive trip. Read more about it.
While travel has resumed, many people are still aware of and concerned about health and safety risks at large gatherings. IRF reports, “Sanitation and health security have joined emergency preparedness as top risk management strategies.” Follow the lead of event planners and build in measures such as social distancing, increased sanitation, hands-free technology, and no-contact services to improve the event experience for attendees.
The wrap-up on incentive travel
Given the clear benefits of inventive travel, it’s no surprise that 100% of best-in-class companies (those with the highest customer retention and sales growth) offer group travel to recognize year-end sales success. (Aberdeen Research)
If you’re planning and managing an employee travel program for your team and need help putting together custom gift boxes or on-site product and apparel experiences, reach out. Our team at Shamrock has some great ideas for you.