Incentive travel paused at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. As the global population continues to get vaccinated and booster shots become more readily available, corporate travel is ramping back up. Why are companies eager to get back to incentive travel? Because it works! For years, incentive travel has been recognized as one of the most effective ways for companies to reward and motivate their employees while also boosting company culture and morale.
“Incentive travel programs have always been and will continue to be one of the best rewards for organizations to recognize their top performers. Successful incentives curate experiences through group buying power that individuals would not necessarily be able to replicate on their own through personal travel,” explains Paige Laliberte, event manager at The Castle Group.
While employees may love a cash bonus at first, the excitement associated with a monetary reward is short lived and does not produce the long-term memories and benefits, both financial and non-financial, that incentive travel does. Studies have shown that incentive travel:
- Increases revenue
- Results in higher ROI
- Expands sales productivity
- Fosters employee engagement
- Promotes teamwork and teambuilding
- Boosts company culture
Despite ever-changing travel guidelines, industry experts are optimistic that 2022 will be the year that incentive travel makes a comeback. New research from the Incentive Travel Industry Index showed that 82% of the companies surveyed are actively planning in-person travel incentives for 2022. Senior event manager Emily Langlois recently traveled to Punta de Mita, Mexico, to perform a site visit. She explains, “Tourism, a huge part of the economy in Mexico, took a big hit in 2020. To see travel open back up and to experience our partners and hotel staff welcome us back with open arms is really special.”
Planning an incentive trip in a pandemic-stricken world takes a lot of extra attention to detail. Program guides and event information must continually be updated to include testing requirements, masking guidelines and other COVID-19 restrictions. “There is nothing more important than the health and safety of our clients and their guests. As event professionals, it is our responsibility to navigate travel policies in order to safely execute corporate incentive programs,” Emily continues.
With health and safety at the forefront of everyone’s minds, here are some trends that we expect to see in the incentive industry in 2022.
Incentive Travel Trend #1: Staying Closer to Home
Domestic incentive programs are on the rise due to ever-changing travel restrictions. Many companies and individuals feel more comfortable staying closer to home and traveling solely within the U.S. or nearby countries. Therefore, we expect to see a rise in popular U.S. destinations as well as those in Mexico and the Caribbean. Check out our blog on the Top 10 Domestic Incentive Destinations in the U.S. for some close-to-home recommendations.
Incentive Travel Trend #2: Implementing Backup Plans
Backup plans are an integral part of the incentive program planning process, especially when it comes to off-site activities and programs. Planners must consider on-site alternatives that “provide attendees with the fun experience you were hoping to give them but keeps them inside where health and safety standards are more highly regulated,” explains Paige Laliberte.
Incentive Travel Trend #3: Transparency
Transparency is more important than ever. Regular communications should be shared so attendees know what to expect and feel completely comfortable. Event coordinator Kyra Charie said, “The past two years have been filled with changes. It is important to be as transparent as you can. Face masks, testing, and policies are a major part of our daily lives now. At Castle, we keep a close eye on these policies and guidelines in order to provide our clients with as much security and transparency as possible.”
After spending nearly two years working from home, living on Zoom, and social distancing, it comes as no surprise that individuals have a greater appreciation for travel now and are eager to again explore new destinations. We have learned that despite increased safety protocols and new planning considerations, corporate incentive programs are still possible. Paige Laliberte explains, “Pandemic or not, the fact remains that good employees deserve to be rewarded and recognized. Companies should work with an expert planning team who can help them keep their employees safe while also meeting their business goals.”
For more information on planning incentive travel, fill out our contact form to connect with our team.