Incentive travel is, fundamentally, a trip that offers participants experiences that are once-in-a-lifetime, and/or that they could not easily afford to do on their own. Participants have earned the travel opportunity due to their performance, and therefore the experience needs to be meaningful to each individual guest. This is no easy task!
The purpose of an incentive program is different than the purpose of a meeting or other business event. A meeting is typically organized to educate, to plan, to bring people together in a working environment, so different factors are taken into account in the planning. Yes, we want to create a motivational meeting, but not in the same way as we would with an incentive program. A successful incentive travel supplier understands what it takes to craft experiences that reward people for their contributions to a company's growth and business objectives.
Today, there is a much bigger service offering that incentive suppliers are expected to deliver beyond the acquisition of a destination travel package. Customers are looking to their suppliers to provide consultation and value-added services to design programs that are unique, custom built, appropriate to the demographic, and deliver measurable business results.
Incentive planning is an art
Planning an incentive program is not rocket science, but it is an art and, like every art form, incentive suppliers need to have an inner passion to create. When you plan a meeting, you often don't dwell upon the targeted results of the meeting and instead focus on successful execution. Planning an incentive program is different. You are working on generating feelings, moving a person emotionally, and motivating higher levels of performance.
Seven in 10 respondents to the 2015 SITE Index survey report they are developing newer and more creative ways to add value for their customers. This may include offering more authentic destination-related experiences; advising clients of local events they can take advantage of at no cost; sourcing unique venues for unconventional events; and incorporating ideas from other destinations/countries.
For every component of an incentive program, creativity is required to take ordinary to extraordinary. It is essential that suppliers start afresh on each project, beginning with a strong understanding of the target audience and core business objectives. You need to take into account what will be memorable to the participants and what experiences can be organized that they would not be able to do if they visited the destination on their own. Even if your program returns every year to the same destination, you need to think outside of the box and design an event that is unique and memorable, one that makes participants feel special and motivated to succeed for the coming year.
Incentives are all about creating magical moments. With incentives, one aims not at affecting the intellect or mind, but at touching one's hearts and emotions.
Rajeev Kohli is president of the Society for Incentive Travel Excellence (SITE) for 2016 as well as Joint Managing Director of Creative Travel Pvt. Ltd. in New Delhi, India.