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Incentive travel is an indisputable winner when it comes to employee and sales partner motivation.

Giving your top performers a new experience and a fresh perspective on the world is a productivity booster of note. Not to mention a way to build better relationships between managers and staff, increase mindshare, enhance knowledge, and generally bolster employee engagement on multiple levels.

In the latest Travel Industry Index published by The Society for Incentive Travel Excellence (SITE), a third of respondents said they’re expecting up to a 5% increase in incentive travel budgets for 2020. And three years out (2022) they’re predicting even more growth.

When asked what factors were affecting this boost in travel rewards, survey respondents all agreed that it had a lot to with:

  • An increased tendency to combine business with leisure (88%)
  • Increased focus on the importance of company culture (83%)
  • Increasing importance on CSI, sustainability and going ‘green’ (81%)

As this boom picks up momentum, there are some exciting trends unfolding in the incentive travel industry that you simply can’t ignore. Here, in no particular order, are our top 5.

#1 Must be immersive and authentic

There’s been a collective call for tailor-made trips and off-the-beaten-track adventures. This is most probably in response to the Instagram-savvy travellers making up the current workforce. What we know is that people want to do things they couldn’t organise (or in some cases afford) themselves – like weaving sun hats with Seychelles locals, taking samurai lessons in Japan or learning wood carving with a Maori craftsman in New Zealand. And for more conventional tastes, perhaps a guided food expedition of Singapore’s famous hawker cuisine, a curated private tour of museums in Italy or a train journey through the Alps.

Whatever you do, make the experiences authentic and personalised. That doesn’t mean you need to cater to the exact hopes and dreams of each person on the trip. Skydiving in Cape Town doesn’t suit everyone, nor does 18 holes of golf in the Drakensberg. The objective is to curate a collection of itinerary experiences to choose from. Take into account the unique preferences of guests, and you’ll have their full attention both on the trip and back at the office.

#2 Give sustainable travel a chance

Research suggests that the global movement towards sustainability and making a difference in the world can and should be translated into your group incentive travel experiences. That means giving guests an opportunity to volunteer and make a positive impact in whichever way they choose.

This could be shopping trips to local cultural art and craft markets, or more hands-on experiences like volunteering at a local orphanage. Even just supplying guests with branded water bottles (saying no to single-use plastics on the trip) is a step in the right direction.

Another idea to consider is travelling by train, which has become increasingly popular because air travel leaves such a big carbon footprint. Our top picks for train adventures are the Shongololo Express (SA), the Chocolate Train (Switzerland) and the Hotel on Wheels (Spain).

#3 Find health and wellness

Wellness was one of the biggest incentive travel trends in 2019. And no wonder, given that the global wellness market is valued at $4.2 trillion. A staggering 44% of employees report that they feel burned out and so C-suites are starting to see the value in caring for the health of their employees.

To inject a dash of wellness into your 2020 incentive travel agenda, you could find a location that is all about staying put and relaxing. Or even look to incorporate healthy eating and spa activities into the day so people can return to work feeling rejuvenated. There is also solid research that shows the health benefits of being in nature. You might want to plan something in eco-friendly destinations like Peru, Costa Rica or Kenya, where guests get to recharge in the great outdoors while still enjoying luxury creature comforts (of course).

#4 Education is an option

As more companies grapple with the skills gap caused by the 4th Industrial Revolution, managers will be looking for authentic experiences that have a learning element. That doesn’t mean no more ‘fun in the sun’. It’s just about including self-development opportunities in a relaxed holiday setting.

That might involve learning more about the location and culture with a cooking course or a museum tour. Or maybe you want to plan the trip around a conference (also a tax break), which will give your team a chance to expand their professional knowledge base and network a little, too.

#5 Leverage tech and social

One-third of your workforce is now (most probably) made up of Millennials. And while older generations aren’t as into connectivity and social media, they’re equally active on their mobile phones. This is something you can leverage in your 2020 incentive travel planning.

Take for example mobile travel apps, which many planners will tell you have become a pivotal part of group incentive travel. From real-time social conversations to trip hashtags, content sharing and live updates, apps are a way to engage the group. But more than that, apps are great travel companions too. Think connected itineraries, tools for keeping in touch and sharing locations (handy if group members get lost), and even clever ideas like interactive tickers that count down to meetings.

A sure thing

At a time when so much is changing in business, it’s good to know that travel is set to remain such a powerful incentive. No matter what shifts in the way we work in 2020, sending top performers on a trip is still going to engage current employees, attract top talent and help meet sales objectives.

Yes, your guests will demand authenticity. They will be plugged-in and looking for techie apps to make travelling easier, and they will definitely be hoping for a few health and wellness activities on the agenda. That doesn’t mean a good old fashioned luxury hotel experience is a thing of the past, it’s just that you’ll want to start thinking out of the box about what that entails.

Remember, your incentive travel partner is going to do all the heavy lifting. You just need to mention these 5 travel trends and they’ll be able to guide you to the best solution. Which is exactly what we do for our own group incentive travel clients.

Give us a call to find out more about what we can do for you.


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