by Eppie Shepherd | July 01, 2019

Travel incentive programs aren't just methods of rewarding your workforce -- they are highly effective motivational tools. As a result, nearly half of all businesses now employ travel incentive-reward schemes as part of their human-resource strategies, and the benefits speak for themselves.

Research has shown that businesses using non-financially-based reward systems, such as travel incentives, experience revenue figures an average of three times higher than those of competitors not using such methods. More specifically, data shows that travel incentives can produce as much as a 112 percent return through direct influences, such as driving up sales, as well as by improving worker productivity, morale, engagement and retention.

Yet acquiring such powerful benefits from travel incentive strategies isn't as simple as jetting your workforce off to a random location for a brief getaway. It's about taking the opportunity to enhance their working lives and using the process to achieve far-reaching results through targeted strategies.

But how can your business do this? 

Ensure True Engagement by Understanding Your Workers

Travel incentives are exactly that: an incentive - a strategy designed to incentivize your workforce to achieve success in order to obtain a reward that they perceive as valuable. Value comes from personal judgement, which means your ideas for a great travel incentive scheme may not be the same as those of your workforce. If your scheme isn't providing employees with the reward structure they need to drive them, it becomes pointless.

So how do you achieve a travel incentive program that engages and excites your workforce, pushing them forward to develop their skills and boost results on the job? You ask them what they want.

Get feedback and offer employee surveys on what kind of travel incentive package your workers would like to see. Sending them on an adventurous outdoor trek when what they really want is a relaxing yoga retreat isn't going to entice performance improvements and maximize ROI.

Create Once-in-a-Lifetime Experiences

Surveys are powerful tools for finding the top locations for your team, but sometimes staff may not know where they actually want to go. Even so, you still can create a travel incentive program that works.

When you think about why your employees would really want travel as a reward, you'll discover that the attraction primarily comes from exclusivity and discovery. Your employees want to see and explore the world around them, and by opening those doors, you create tantalizing opportunities that make them want to stay on board with your business and push forward to gain the rewards they crave.

But you'll see these benefits only if you offer travel experiences that satisfy those cravings, that fulfill personal goals and allow employees to tick off bucket-list items. This comes down to one thing: building once-in-a-lifetime experiences that go beyond the normal holiday experience. Investment should not just be made on plane tickets and hotel rooms, but also in the development of a reward that actually has the potential to be more than a typical personal getaway. Even luxury travel like a trip to the Caribbean or Maldives is something your staff might have experienced on their own time. For travel to be truly effective, you need to create a money-can't-buy incentive. 

How Do You Create a Money-Can't-Buy Travel Incentive?
  • Bring people together. For international businesses, companies with regional offices or those that operate remotely, travel can unite workers who rarely get an opportunity to connect. This gives people reason to engage, as they get to build relationships and spend time with friends.
  • Get on trend. Find locations for travel that are on trend and popular, and consider destinations that are available but that your employees might not think to go to. Inspiration is readily available from travel bloggers, Instagram influencers and lifestyle websites. This can make travel incentives much more interesting and exciting for employees.
  • Build experiences they can't. Unlike your employees, you have the time and money to invest in finding experiences that may either be unattainable through traditional holiday outings or would be at least difficult to arrange. Create travel incentives that provide opportunities that are unique to your trip.
Establish Goals for Your Incentive Travel Program

The concept behind the travel incentive is to provide a reward that results in personal gain. But this doesn't mean you cannot integrate business objectives into the process. Travel can be an excellent opportunity for your team to acquire new skills and enjoy team-building activities, helping to support better work practices upon return that are key to optimizing ROI.

For your business to attain the right kind of benefits that support this ROI, however, you need to be thinking about the type of trip you are offering. An awareness of weaknesses, or at least areas of improvement, is the first essential step to achieving this goal. Consider skills your employees could acquire that would have a beneficial outcome for business development, and evaluate travel opportunities based on these requirements.

For example, if you are finding a lack of communication is a problem among your team, travel programs that encourage connectivity like close-knit city breaks or activity holidays could provide valuable community-building opportunities. Similarly, if stress is negatively impacting performance, wellness retreats might help with improving employees' mental health.

Achieve Success With a Dedicated Project Manager

Gathering feedback, selecting the right location based on skills, building once-in-a-life experiences -- these are all essential tasks for optimizing travel incentives and supporting the high rates of return businesses can achieve. However, these results cannot be obtained through a simple desire. 

In order to maximize ROI, your business needs to create strategies based on these factors and then implement them effectively. The most successful travel incentives are all about building money-can't-buy experiences and fostering rewards that drive your employees. This requires proper management.

Incorporating quality travel management solutions into your incentive reward scheme is an essential practice for producing the best results. Travel rewards are a luxury that needs to feel exactly that -- luxurious. A hastily thrown-together package that does not suit company culture, goals or employee perception will not have the effect you desire. Dedication to creating the ultimate experience is critical to a thriving travel incentive program. 

Assigning a dedicated project manager or third-party organization to manage this process is key to maintaining focus and ensuring every box is ticked.

Eppie Shepherd is a marketing executive at the world-renowned events company Banks-Sadler. Eppie combines her first-class degree in event management with her creative skills to provide top insights into creating and hosting the perfect event.