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Whether you’re in the business of motivating salespeople, retaining talent or rewarding customers, research shows that incentive travel is the one reward no human being can get enough of.


It should come as no surprise that incentive travel is a favourite among incentive programs, recognition programs and loyalty programs. With every passing year the world is becoming more of an experience economy – and experiences don’t come better than the opportunity to broaden your horizons and see the world.

What’s not to love?

HR directors, loyalty marketers and brand managers, lend us your ears. The latest research shows that incentive travel is regarded as the ultimate reward by customers, channel partners and employees. Put simply, everyone loves travel.

Unlike a cash or material reward, travel creates a lasting, emotional connection with a brand or business. You’re more likely to remember the company that took you island hopping in Thailand than you are the brand that gave you a new waffle iron – no matter how good the waffles are. Travel, like no other reward, forges memories which will last a lifetime. Talk about a one-way ticket to life-long loyalty. What’s more, incentive travel creates human connections. Going on a trip together fosters the real friendships which are the building blocks of brand loyalty and retention.

Incentive travel doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg, either. By avoiding peak seasons, being flexible about destination options and taking advantage of package deals and group discounts, travel can actually be a remarkably cost-efficient reward. Especially if you rely on a trusted group travel provider to sniff out the best deals for you…

The changing world of travel

With expanding flight networks, nascent tourism industries in places as diverse as Lithuania and Myanmar and an increasingly curious breed of traveller, the globe is more accessible now than ever before. The increased competition has also forced established destinations to up their games and rethink their pricing, especially during low seasons. And that’s before we’ve even scratched the surface of local and regional travel. With nine wonderfully diverse provinces, and a whole host of fascinating neighbours, South Africans don’t have to cover huge distances to reap immense incentive travel rewards.

It’s not just about a broader smorgasbord of destinations either. The advent of intelligent, responsive travel apps and websites means that managing bookings, accessing travel tips and breaking down language barriers is a doddle. In one fell swoop Google Translate has eliminated the need to know how to order beer in 37 languages (in the process rendering an entire decade of my life obsolete) and many top-notch travel providers have their own bespoke apps which combine bookings management systems with travel guides, phrasebooks and more. White label solutions mean this technology can be harnessed by your brand and used to further ramp up brand loyalty and recognition.

When it comes to social media, travel is worth its weight in 18-carat gold. A carefully-planned incentive travel scheme should create experiences that are immersive, immediate and involving – before, during and even after the trip itself. Here are a few ways of achieving this:

  1. Savvy marketers use hashtags and campaigns to create hype ahead of a trip (super easy if people are competing to win the travel incentive)
  2. Real-time photos, videos and diary-style posts ensure that the rest of your audience goes along for the ride
  3. After-the-fact flashbacks, recaps and report backs see to it that the trip lives long in the memory of everyone who was exposed to it.

While you may initially baulk at the cost of a travel incentive, it’ll seem like a bargain when you’re still reaping the loyalty rewards a year later.


Do your research and partner with the best

When the stakes are this high, it really pays to engage the services of an experienced travel rewards provider. Not doing so could cause you a lot of hassle or – worse still – create lasting damage to your brand. When choosing an incentive travel partner, be sure to check professional accreditations, including whether or not the consultants are certified as travel agents.

Once you’ve got these basics out of the way, be sure to ask prospective incentive travel agents for case studies and client testimonials. Don’t be shy to dig into the details by reviewing travel participant surveys or even making direct contact with some of the travel agent’s past clients. Incentive travel may be a fun and enriching experience for its beneficiaries but for HR directors, loyalty marketers and brand managers it is a deadly serious business strategy. You’d be a fool not to do all the research required to decide on a best-fit partner for your brand and thus maximise the return on your investment.

Spoilt for choice

Now for the fun part. Once you’ve grasped the incredible intrinsic power of incentive travel, you’re faced with the tantalising prospect of deciding where in the world you want to send your lucky recipients.

At the moment I’m dreaming about exploring the cobwebbed gothic spires and vibrant, grungy graffiti of old-meets-new Lisbon; sampling the fruits of a two-thousand-year-old culinary heritage in edgy Vietnam; and engaging in some serious R&R on the sun-kissed sands of Cape Vidal, right here in Mzansi. The world’s a big place, though, so the shortlist for you and your brand will almost certainly be different.

Which is precisely the point. Done properly, incentive travel can never grow old or tired. Who knows, you may even be required to visit a few of the destinations on your shortlist. Call it an occupational hazard…


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