Corporate Incentive Destinations
How to Choose the Best One for your Winners
Choosing a destination for your next corporate incentive trip can be tricky. With so many destinations to choose from, how do you know which will inspire and motivate your potential winners? Below are some factors to consider when choosing your incentive destination.
Determining your incentive program budget is the least enjoyable task when planning an incentive trip. But it's also important that this is the first item on your timeline. When doing so, keep in mind that incentive travel programs are budgeted per person. So, the more attendees you have, the higher your overall budget will be. Average per person cost of an incentive travel program is $5,000 - $6,000 per person. However, the destination you choose, transportation costs, number of nights, and housing cost will determine your overall budget. When determining your budget, keep in mind your out-of-pocket cost vs. the return on investment. The bigger wow your destination presents, the harder your sales force or dealers will work for it. The harder they work for it, the more money your company makes. In addition to money, incentives have proven to help companies to retain employees in an era known for "the great resignation." An awe-inspiring high-class incentive will make an impression on your attendees and make them truly feel appreciated.
With the added emphasis on employee retention and recruitment, the quality and impact of programs ties clearly to corporate goals. Incentive travel professionals are expected to “raise their game.” Incentive travel needs to be more exciting, more exclusive, more experiential, more authentic, and more memorable than ever. IRF 2023 Trends Report
Some companies are able to hold longer incentives than others. It really just depends on how long winners can be away from the office. Average number of nights for a corporate incentive is 3-5 nights. Logically, if the majority of your sales force lives in the Southeast, 3 nights in Hawaii is not enough. With some destinations (like going to Europe from the U.S.) you arrive a day after you depart your home city. Long flights eat up a full two days with travel.
Who is your audience? Age, gender, socio-economic background, and geographical location are major factors to consider when choosing your incentive destination. When choosing, it's important to take the "I" out of the equation and concentrate on the "they." Where will "they" want to go? What will motivate "them?" Are your potential winners well-traveled? If so, you need to up your game to create an incentive with impressive and memorable elements. If your winners are older, cultural tours may be better than a destination known for thrill experiences. If your winners have young children at home, it's more difficult for them to get away for long periods of time.
Not all destinations give the same perception. According to the IRF 2023 Trends Report, the top four incentive travel destinations in 2022 were Hawaii, The Caribbean, Western United States, and Western Europe (particularly France and Italy). Keep in mind that safety, travel distance, and luxury all contribute to perception.
Choosing a desirable destination is important. Be sure to also keep in mind what you are able to financially include in your incentive trip. Your attendees will not be happy with a trip that takes them to a luxurious destination if they are left on their own to pay for food, beverage, and excursions. Because of this, all-inclusive properties and cruises have become popular choices for incentive trips. When staying at an EP (European Plan) property, some companies offer a cash allowance or a resort credit to assist with expenses not included. A good mix of creative awe-inspiring group events and at leisure time are key to a successful incentive. International currency conversion rates, menu costs, and tax implications should all be considered.
Often, destinations and/or resorts offer booking incentives to lower your cost or add wow factors to your program. Building supplier relationships or working with a third party with those supplier relationships enables knowledge of and access to those incentives.
Always schedule a site inspection. I cannot stress this enough. Experience the resort and destination yourself before committing to it for your group. Some places look better online than they do in person. It is worth the investment to narrow down your choices and see them in person before signing a contract. It also helps with negotiations if hotel partners know you are serious and that there are other hotels being considered. I always say that how you are treated on a site inspection is indicative of how the staff at the resort and in the destination will treat your attendees and your staff operating the incentive.
Polls and Evaluations
People like to share their opinions. The best way to know what will motivate your audience is simply to ask them. At the beginning of the qualification period, send out a poll to those working towards the incentive. In addition, immediately following an incentive trip, send a program evaluation form to all the attendees. Remember that what you personally like and dislike may not be the consensus. To tap into the sociology of your attendees, it's always a good idea to encourage feedback.
Strategic Events Expert
Picking the right partner (in-house or third party) is important. You wouldn't hire a dentist to perform a heart transplant. This same reasoning is why working with an experienced strategic event planner with incentive travel expertise will align you with a true planning partner who will give insight into the best destination options for your attendees, budget, program inclusions, and more based on their knowledge, training, experience, and expertise.
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