by Alex Palmer | August 15, 2011
Incentive travel is showing resilience, according to a new report from the Incentive Travel Council. The white paper, “Incentive Travel Recovering from Belly-flop,” draws on recent research and case studies of successful incentive programs to show that business leaders are now more willing to reward their top performers with incentive travel than they have had in several years.

The report points to findings from the recent Site survey in which more than 80 percent of companies surveyed said they plan to incorporate motivational travel into their business over the next one to three years. 

“The economy is still in recovery, and businesses can’t afford to lose their top performers,” says Carol Wain, president of the Incentive Travel Council, a strategic industry group of the Incentive Marketing Association, as well as president of Courtenay, BC¬-based Marquee Incentives. "If you stop rewarding and recognizing your best people, they won’t stick around, and it will hurt the core of the business.”

Wain cites the two companies featured in the white paper, which continued their travel incentive programs throughout the economic turmoil of the past few years. 

The first case study is workforce solutions company SFN Group of Fort Lauderdale, FL, which rewards incentive travel programs to its high-performing employees, working to balance meaningful events that offer freedom to participants but also incorporate networking and learning opportunities. The program rewards the top 10 percent of performers—based not only on sales but customer compliments and work culture impact—and includes weekly updates of the top ten performers to keep the travel reward at the top of every participant’s mind. 

The white paper outlines how SFN is able to make their programs profitable by taking this holistic approach to measuring the program’s return on investment.

“When someone travels to a place that is completely new to their existing culture, it is a beautiful experience,” said Dalton Bennington, director of meeting services for SFN, in the paper. “Our employees are motivated to earn the rewards and work harder and more efficiently in order to achieve them.”

The second case study is data recovery company DriveSavers of Novata, CA, which has succeeded in retaining its 90 staff members with strong rewards for their performances. The company recently tapped Fairmont Hotels & Resorts to offer gift certificates for specific, measurable goals that recipients could use at any of Fairmont’s properties without the risk of them expiring. The travel incentives have contributed to an average employee tenure of 12 years at the company. 

Analyzing the ROI of the incentive travel rewards, Jay Hagan, CEO of DriveSavers, finds that the sales just from the company’s telephone group covers the annual incentive budget, making the rest “gravy on top.”

“These guys never cut back on their programs, they just continued them, and you can see their success,” says Wain. “Companies should really think twice before cutting back on incentives because there are long-lasting implications.”

The entire report of “Incentive Travel Recovering from Belly-flop” can be downloaded at www.incentivetravelcouncil.org.