Revamp Your Incentive Travel to Motivate Channel Partners

ITA Group
ITA Group

dancers on stage for incentive travel trip entertainment

Is your incentive travel program as strong as it could be? Is it a differentiator for your brand in a competitive market?

If your channel incentive travel offerings are well planned, they can incent many partners at once—building long-lasting relationships and brand advocacy within your channel ecosystem. Most channels already understand the basic benefits of incentive travel awards; however, if travel awards are enhanced, they can be even more impactful in motivating channel partners.

A recent study from Incentive Research Foundation reported 91% of participants found group incentive travel to be “extremely” or “very motivating.” To stay in the forefront, channel leaders should continue investing in incentive travel and look for ways to refresh existing programs, especially with the market as competitive as ever.  

Here are some best practices to improve the incentive travel experience for your top channel partners, maximizing the trip’s results.

4 Best Practices for Channel Incentive Travel

1. Use Communications to Engage & Excite

Highlight what makes the destination and experience unique to entice partners. Don’t forget to include participants’ loved ones in the travel communications—their excitement to join in the fun will motivate partners to exceed their goals and earn the trip.

Consider a fun pre-trip quiz to gather data to personalize on-site communications and experiences. Knowing who prefers salty vs. sweet snacks or likes hiking more than a day at the spa allows for thoughtful touches that make participants feel recognized and appreciated for their work.

Finally, follow up after the trip with thank-you emails and participant surveys, gathering data that will drive future initiatives. You could even deliver a post-event gift related to their experience and a message about hopefully seeing them next year. The post-event gift prolongs the experience and reinforces the relationship and brand connection you made on the trip.

examples of incentive travel communications

2. Optimize Technology to Spur Motivation

A personalized website connects partners to the trip, letting them explore the destination and ramping up the excitement factor through touchpoints like travel countdowns to heighten anticipation.

As the participant journey progresses, add new features at the right moment to carry the momentum forward. For example, visual trackers offer motivation and a sense of accomplishment during the home stretch as participants see how close they are to qualifying.

After they earn the trip, incorporate a personalized mobile app that enhances the trip. For example, offer location-specific “extra” incentives like a free drink at the bar through the app.

incentive travel program website on laptop

3. Structure On-Site Activities to Encourage Making Connections

Strong relationships are at the heart of successful channel partnerships, but the large geographical distances separating many channel partners make maintaining these relationships challenging. On-site connections provide an opportunity for all partners to meet and share their knowledge in a variety of ways.

One of our clients decided to forego an evening event during a trip in favor of an all-day, all-ages pool party. Another had a cooking demonstration with a professional chef that required partners to team up with those they don’t normally work with. For adventurous attendees, hut-hopping in the Austrian Alps lets partners bond over their shared bravery. The possibilities are endless.

On-site activities are also an opportunity for leadership to connect with partners. Our research increasingly shows that partners want clear direction and increased connection with channel leaders. Having access to leaders makes partners feel heard and valued for their contributions to the brand’s success. Build these connections on the trip to give stakeholders access to top people in the organization.

incentive travel attendees at pool party

Related: Discover best practices for executing a channel event that fosters strong connections between channel partners.

4. Include Novel Experiences to Develop Positive Brand Associations

New experiences activate our brain and give us a shot of dopamine. Unique, authentic and immersive experiences shared between attendees create memories and positive brand associations that partners carry with them long after the event is over.

Start with small touchpoints during the trip and focus on turning them into once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.

  • Work in the destination’s local flavor and culture to infuse authenticity. For example, in British Columbia, we gave attendees the option to snag cozy gear from Roots, a leading Canadian lifestyle brand inspired by the wilderness.
  • Add in meaningful surprises, like can’t-do-on-your-own experiences tailored to the audience’s passion. During one trip for vehicle enthusiasts, a custom vintage car driving tour included lunch at Castello di Monsanto.
  • Connect activities so they build off each other, creating a story that culminates in a meaningful way. For example, we had participants collect toiletry items for a local homeless shelter as an event’s give-back component. During the evening event, shelter representatives shared how the collected donations would better people’s lives.
  • Partner with an outside team to take advantage of their expertise in executing novel, immersive experiences that weave in small details and speak to the overall brand message. We'd love to chat about how we can help your brand.

vintage cars lined up on street for city tour

Reap the Benefits of Improved Channel Partner Travel Awards

Don’t underestimate the value of improving your channel partner travel award offerings.

Besides the obvious benefit of rewarding top performers, incentive travel inspires the entire organization by giving partners an exciting award to reach for. It’s also flexible enough to target segments of the channel through eligibility rules, ensuring you’re getting the right mix of top partners, rising stars and even support roles instrumental to success. It can help channels with smaller distribution networks incent partners without needing to invest in a full platform better suited for larger channels. It’s even highly valued by executives and considered a competitive benefit to offer partners.

And, lastly, it has real monetary benefits. IRF case studies show non-cash channel partner award programs can increase total revenues by 32%, market share by 30% and net operating income to 19% of revenue.

Incentive travel is a powerful tool to continue motivating top channel partners. Amp up the wow factor of your next incentive trip to maximize the impact of the award.

Looking to connect, motivate and incent your partners with a once-in-a-lifetime trip? Find non-stop inspiration with our incentive travel magazine.