How Do You Know If Incentive Travel Is Successful?

By: Angie Jackson
How to measure incentive travel program success

On a beach, with one of those umbrella-adorned drinks in hand, your top performers know that all the extra work it took to make the cut for your incentive travel trip was worth it.

They lounge back and, deservedly, soak up the sun.

Meanwhile, the number-crunchers on your team are back at headquarters, neck deep in Excel, calculators buzzing. They’ve got questions on their minds: Was this worth it? How do we know if this incentive travel thing is actually successful?

Sure, your company is in the black this year. Sales seem fine. But from there, the details get foggy.

How much did incentive travel really benefit our bottom line? Why? And what can be optimized to make things even better?

If that sounds like your company’s struggle with incentive travel, you’re not alone.

While 100% of “best-in-class” companies offer some sort of group incentive travel program, and they can even help companies find success after a merger. That said, very few of them are actually measuring the ROI achieved through incentive travel programs.

Incentive travel is more than just a flight to a fancy locale. There are real bottom-line benefits for your organization, but only if you manage incentive travel strategically.

Knowing if your incentive travel program was successful takes a careful, proactive approach, every step along the way.

Here’s how to do it:

Before Your Incentive Travel Program

Understand program goals. Well before your participants begin the process of earning an incentive travel trip, or even before your incentive travel destination is chosen, make sure you know the specific, achievable goals of your program.

For example, an incentive travel program is a great way to inspire your sales team to sell more. However, “sell more” is an ineffective goal, because it lacks context and specificity.

By segmenting your audience into different tiers—top, middle and low performers, for instance—you can assign different, specific goals targeted to motivate different audiences in different ways.

Your program can also drive specific behaviors, such as more sales activity around a higher-margin product, by incorporating those into the rule structure at the program’s base.

Have a measurement plan. It’s an old yarn of business: if it matters, measure it. For any program, it’s a best practice to have a measurement plan.

Having a plan in advance of implementing any incentive program is critical. This way, you can ensure you execute exactly what is needed to capture the data you’ll need. What data files might you need? Will you need to execute a survey to capture the information? Who will manage all of this data?

On the whole, preparing for and using a combination of quantitative and qualitative measurement methods creates the best possible environment for program growth and success.

During Your Incentive Travel Program

Monitor your data. While your participants are in the earning phase of your incentive travel program, it’s time to press “record” and gather as many important facts and figures as you can. By gathering metrics while the program is underway, you can interpret what the figures mean and monitor the ongoing progress of your program.

Survey participants. The other side of the coin from data monitoring is qualitative data, and which is gathered to understand the sentiment of your participants that can’t be summarized in a number. Polling your participants is a key way of understanding participant sentiment during the program.

Adjust on the fly. Are there any statistics that raise red flags? Any recurring survey responses that warrant a response? Don’t be afraid to consider readjustments to your program.

After Your Incentive Travel Program

Your incentive travel trip was flawless from beginning to end and the program’s ROI rocketed off the charts…right? Don’t just guess. You’ve got to take a more precise look to find that out.

Analyze program experience. Taking a close look at participant experience can determine which parts of the program went over well, which didn’t and what could be improved.

To evaluate your program in a qualitative context, survey your participants to understand the effectiveness of your earning structure, as well as the destination and trip inclusions.

Example survey questions include:

  • What was your favorite part of the trip?
  • How would you improve the earning period of the incentive travel trip?
  • What would you change on your trip?

Analyzing your program experience in a quantitative context is important in order to identify how behavior has changed: not only for those who earned the trip, but for those who didn’t make it. For those that didn’t make the trip, how can middle- and low-tier rule structures be optimized? For top performers who made the trip, which activities and excursions were the most attended?

Analyze program design. Conversely, how did the design and rule structure of your program factor into its overall success? Investigating qualitative and quantitative progress is the best way of determining its success.

To evaluate qualitative progress, survey your people about the tactics used leading up to the launch of the program and throughout the program. How familiar were they with the program? Did participants know what their goals were? From a participant standpoint, what would they improve to make it better?

Evaluating the quantitative success of your incentive travel program design requires dipping into the analytics of your program. For instance, what were the response rates to your communication strategies, such as emails or website visits? To what extent are you driving the behaviors you desire?


All of that planning paid off—you’ve got great information about the standout (and less-than-perfect) aspects of your program. Now what?

Turn what was learned into recommendations for improvements. For your travel incentive trip, measurement is an ongoing process, not just facts and figures at the end. That’s why it’s collecting data with an emphasis on the life cycle of your program, not just for myopic goals, is a must for a thriving program.

Incentive travel is about so much more than just the destination. It’s about aligning and motivating your people while delivering an awe-inspiring experience. In turn, you’ll get the sales, service and loyalty results you need.

Ready to get started with strategic incentive travel that really takes your people places? Learn more about Incentive Travel.

Angie Jackson
Angie Jackson

For the past 15 years, Angie Jackson has helped clients execute and analyze initiatives. As manager of the analytics and decision support team at ITA Group, Angie helps develop meaningful strategies and provides insight into the impact of customer engagement and incentives. You can find her on the tennis court, gardening, reading or at the lake with her family.