Why Incentive Travel Continues to Be an Effective Motivator

ITA Group
ITA Group

happy couple posing for photographer on incentive travel trip

What is the value of including incentive travel in your corporate strategy? Is it just another business expense? A headache to plan and operate? Or is it a strategic investment in growing talent and profits? Depending upon your perspective, it may be all of these things.

Studies show team members want to do meaningful work and make contributions of value to an organization. This discretionary capital can be tapped by purposefully recognizing and motivating people with travel experiences for their exceptional achievements.

Incentive travel has been an effective motivator for decades—and continues to be an important element of business management. In a recent survey conducted by SITE, 96% of respondents agreed that their incentive travel programs were “very effective or effective in achieving program objectives” as measured by increased sales/revenue. Plus, the non-financial benefits are many including employee engagement, networking, team building and sharing best practices during the trip.

Design and delivery of compelling incentive travel programs is not easy but essential for objectives behind the program to be met. Finding the right balance for both your employees and organization requires a thoughtful approach. Make sure you are asking these questions regularly:

What audience do I want to motivate? Incentive travel is used to motivate and reward salespeople, channel sales team and other employees. Incentive Magazine notes that top-performing companies use non-cash rewards (including incentive travel) in 90% of their sales programs compared with just 75% of average firms; in channel sales, it’s 81% vs. 59%.

In another study across these audience types, incentive travel awards were found to create strong emotional connections for the recipient to the organization resulting in higher levels of performance, trust and retention according to Scott Jeffrey of Monmouth University. Jeffrey’s study also found the majority of participants felt, “motivated or highly motivated by incentive travel rewards.”

Are my program rules fair, reasonable and attainable? If team members feel the goal is not achievable, they’ll disengage and perform at mediocre levels. It’s reasonable to provide an incentive that top performers can stretch to and achieve, however, moving the “middle 60” is essential in hitting an organization’s ultimate goal. By leveraging professional incentive program designers, your rules structure can benefit from their experience, analytics and insights in your competitive marketplace.  

Does my incentive travel program provide “choice”? You’ve found a cool location, but how do you make it memorable, meaningful and motivational for all your participants? Begin by providing a choice of activities and excursions within a bigger themed event to accommodate all lifestyles and life stages. One hot trend right now is “partying poolside.” VIP cabanas. Private bungalows. Club couches. Hanging daybeds. And those are just the seating choices! Add in volleyball throw downs, water polo matchups, a rockin’ DJ, an open bar and buffet lunch and you’ll have plenty of options for everyone to choose from.

Have I considered the impact of regulations on my incentive travel award program? There’s a myriad of regulations and tax requirements that affect incentive travel awards. The IRF’s research indicates that over 77% of companies are “very confident” in having an understanding of how the rules and regulations impact their non-cash incentive programs. Yet the study also revealed a dichotomy that showed many companies identified “legal and regulatory issues where none existed,” resulting in 46% of firms reworking the underlying business purpose and 43% changing the entire design of their program, perhaps unnecessarily. Consult with your legal advisor before altering any aspects of your program design associated with regulatory accommodations.

Will my technology promote sharing adventures and information at my event? The complexities involved in incentive travel planning requires expertise and coordination and the right technology to make it all come together seamlessly. Event apps are integral to the participant experience, but also to your organization’s ability to track, monitor and later analyze your success metrics. Using the latest technology facilitates guest registration with real-time data to effectively manage your attendees’ travel experiences. Plus, technology helps attendees connect with one another by sharing what they’re doing through posts and pictures. Apps push out important notifications on planned activities as well as lending themselves to interactive gamification that keeps engagement running high.

Strategy Is the Difference Between Travel & Experience

People want to earn rewards and recognition for their exceptional accomplishments—and incentive travel is still a preferred achievement award. Top-performing companies understand this because of their own experience and available field research that have confirmed its effectiveness in comparison to cash and gift cards. For incentive travel to be truly commensurate with the effort put forth, it must be designed in a way that makes it difficult for an individual to duplicate on their own. Putting thought to and answering the questions above will make a difference in planning your next incentive travel program that your participants will talk about for years to come.

Still have questions? Find out how ITA Group designed and executed an incentive travel program that delivered a 300% increase in sales.