Incentive travel programs have been proven to increase sales, boost productivity, retain customers, hold on to top talent, promote teamwork and decrease turnover, among other results. A study by the International Society for Performance Improvement found that incentive programs could increase the performance of an individual by 22 percent and of a team by 44 percent.

Similarly, companies that recognise their employees outperform companies that do not by 30 to 40 percent, according to a study by the Incentive Marketing Association’s Recognition Council. Odenza, a travel provider has stats that show their clients reported an average increase in sales of 21.8% which is well over the industry standard.  At the same time, research commissioned by found that people love to travel so much that 77% of the 17,000 surveyed admitted to booking a holiday purely for a happiness boost. We love a holiday.

Companies today face more varied challenges – challenges first caused by worldwide recessions and then triggered by a slow recovery. According to a recent report by Towers Watson and WorldatWork, companies are experiencing increased difficulty attracting and retaining high-potential and skilled employees necessary to compete globally. Incentives that are ‘big ticket’ are more important than ever to engage employees who are in high demand!

A lure for new customers

As the stats show, the appeal of a holiday can be very strong! If you ae experiencing a sales lull, or worse, market saturation whether you are struggling to get that point of differentiation, then promotion through travel incentives can be a great way to earn that sale. With time limited offers, the ability to let someone else handle the booking arrangements for your business and a whole industry set up to make it easy for you, this can be a really great way to push a sale. Don’t underestimate the powerful effects of imagery. When people hear information, they’re likely to remember only 10% of that information three days later. However, if a relevant image is paired with that same information, people retained 65% of the information three days later. When the image is a stunning beach, well… It’s not going anywhere…


What’s your goal? 

A travel incentive could be used to increase sales, win new customers and increase market share but you may want to think about other uses. Could you increase internal productivity or upselling? Could you boost morale or cross team relations? What about enhancing client/ account relationships? There are more objectives than meet the eye! Find the critical objective and make a SMART goal. You need to consider answering how hard it will be for participants to achieve the desired target and what will happen if no one meets the goals. will you measure weekly? Will it be on gains or reductions? Be sure to build in your timing around your lulls and peaks.

Strategy, set, go…

It’s wise to come up with a few tactics to keep your incentive fresh. You might choose points or values per sale or upsell, but then also add in scales or bandings where the stakes get higher. You might decide to set in mini prizes for mini goals, and bonus awards that are awarded for speed, accuracy or teamwork.

When you set a sales budget – work backwards from the desired outcome, and put 10% of the profit generated back into the sales incentive prize. Consider the money also needed to communicate (design time, email marketing, newsletters, printing of posters, changes to payslips, internal comms schedules) as well as any fees for agencies, travel certificates, launch videos/ speakers, as well as any additional ‘mini gifts’. If you want to think about itineraries at the other end – perhaps an app or a mobile site, even a change to your own website or intranet – now is the time!

Don’t just throw luxury at delegates

When it comes to city breaks there has appeared to be a trend for more and more delegates to source their own accommodation through sites such as Airbnb and HomeAway . This move away from block bookings makes it more difficult for hotels to offer competitive prices on room blocks for depleted numbers. This method can be great for city breaks and small groups but when it comes to something truly memorable, you should be expected to get a whole team as close as possible and ideally you should go all in with all inclusive resort destinations – or even if you aren’t spending a lot – make it really personal.

At Event360 David Heron, head of sales at Black Tomato advised: “Rather than just throwing luxury at delegates, consider touches which will make them feel valued.” Travel packs, translators, gifts to mail back home, persoanl itineraries and even apps to choose activities were all identified as great ideas that made travel incentives stand out.

At the same time, remember that incentive travel has become a lot more sophisticated. Think swim up bars, endless cocktails and activities that are seriously unusual.  Planners increasingly expect something unique and innovative to help their event stand out. Likewise, delegates now expect the event to be tailored to them in some way – a one size fits all approach does not cut it. From the communication, the content, through to accommodation and F&B, attendees are keen to create their own experience of an event to ensure it meets their requirements. A personal note or gift from the venue to welcome the delegate for example, or additional services so they can plan their downtime in a way that’s unique to them – restaurant recommendations and reservations for example. It’s now common practice to incorporate healthy nutrition, relaxation and mindfulness into events. This can take the form of existing delegate health and wellbeing packages offered by the venue or factoring in ‘white space’ between sessions for delegates to relax and gather their thoughts.

The Ultimate Reward

Incentives in this space pay for themselves, and a sales based role like recruitment can pay off the holiday in basic ROI. Jo Meddings, Head of Events at Corporate Rewards, explains: “The ultimate reward for your highest performers is incentive travel, whether you want to motivate and reward your employees or keep your product front-of-mind for your sales teams. As a one-off prize or part of a wider incentive programme, it provides a big win for your hardest-working people – and for your business.”

David Stone, Chief Executive of MRL Group, who offers £1000 of airfare to employees after 5 years of service comments:

“Working in recruitment is incredibly fulfilling. And as someone that’s been in the profession over twenty years I can certainly vouch for that! But let’s not forget it’s also tough. It involves long hours, hard work, and people get tired. Some people feel there’s a 10 year wall, others that it’s a 5 year wall. These factors got me thinking about what we could do about that here at MRL, and so the sabbatical scheme was born.
Offering great commission, employee perks – such as flexi time and private medical care – is all well and good. But does it give recruiters the chance to take a break, recharge their batteries, have some fun, and spend time with family and friends? I would argue not. Our sabbatical does just that. Staff can take a month off – fully paid – without the worry of paying bills to simply do what interests them. But even better than that we throw in £1,000 towards an air fare. I’m a firm believer travel broadens the mind. But it’s a luxury many don’t get to benefit from. So whether it’s an air fare to Australia or an all expenses Safari -what’s not to love?”

The costs don’t have to be sky high and the skies don’t have to be blue either. Did you know that Thomas Cook India have seen a 60% increase in demand for travel in the local monsoon season? Thomas Cook (India) President and Country Head – Leisure Travel, MICE, Rajeev Kale said “The value seeking traveller of today looks beyond the ordinary, inspiring us to curate special offers and unique monsoon experiential packages with us,” Kale added.

Consider the type of trip you need

From reduced emissions to recycling programs, the cruise industry takes proactive measures to preserve oceans while offering once-in-a-lifetime travel experiences for cruisers worldwide and this may appeal if you are keen to promote the same values in your business. If you are focused on families and flexibility, then something that is enticing to families to such as a trip to Disneyland Paris could be a strong incentive.

How many people will you need to take? Consider the ROI of taking more people with you. According to an interview with Citi – Callcredit opened up its annual ‘100 Plus Club’ staff incentive trip to non-sales people for the first time this year. The incentive had typically been for top sales staff, but in 2016 Callcredit started a ‘wildcard’ campaign, to also include seven people from different areas of the company nominated by other members of staff for their contribution to the team. On top of this, take a look at the need for group or solo travel.  Group incentive travel is the ultimate form of recognition that takes them away with people from all walks of life and job roles and gives them a chance to experience amazing activities and events, elevating how they are seen. At the same time, it can alienate those that didn’t make the grade and it simply may not suit everyone.

If you feel solo travel would be more appropriate, you can still use a great company and booking agent to get tips and advice you can pass on to employees. Perhaps an agent would be keen to meet your winners to discuss exchanges rates, travel advice and options for trips and activities.



Lastly – what can derail your travel incentives? Well, in short, it’s the same as any other programme.

“Motivational programs that fail are often due to poor program design in areas of rule structure, award selection, promotion and measurement,” commented Jane Schuldt, CITE, CIS, President of the Site International Foundation. “Understanding the objectives of a program, how they align with overall compensation and recognition, and defining what motivates participants are keys to a program’s success.”

Like most serious business strategies, designing an effective incentive travel program is a task for professionals. To generate bottom-line results, the process demands cooperative efforts among corporate managers who identify objectives, skilled planners who create a program to achieve those objectives and experts who can deliver an incentive travel experience that is meaningful, motivational and memorable.

The only way to tell what your employees really want? Ask! Use your one to one meetings, surveys or other methods to check what the best areas are before implementing a new benefit or perk.

More Incentive and Motivation News:

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