Assemble Your Incentive Travel Strategy With These 5 Questions

Jill Anonson
Jill Anonson

Incentive travel participant tracking her progress toward her incentive travel trip online

Creating an incentive travel program is a bit like putting together flat-pack furniture. There’s a puzzling array of bits and pieces that all fit together—somehow.

If you ignore the assembly instructions, you’ll probably end up with a semi-functional piece of furniture at the end of a frustrating, patience-testing afternoon.

But, if you pay close attention to the instructions before you barge ahead, you’ll find an actionable, step-by-step strategy that points toward bookshelf bliss (or nightstand nirvana).

The secret’s in the strategy—the planning you do ahead of time and the processes you stick to throughout make things more efficient and more successful.

If you’ve been running an incentive travel program for a while, you’ve probably seen success. But, with a forward-thinking strategy at the heart of every move you make, you’ll get a roadmap to greater success at all stages of your program.

To create that strategy, start with asking yourself these five key questions:

Question 1: What incremental growth did your incentive travel trip attendees contribute toward your business?

If a consistent group of people attends your incentive travel trip each year, chances are high that you’re not pushing them hard enough. Incentive travel isn’t much of an incentive when it’s a given that the same participants will make the cut.

At its heart, your incentive travel trip creates ROI for your company. And if your attendees aren’t creating that incremental growth—and if they don’t have to bust down walls to make it on your incentive travel trip—it’s not much more than a perk for top performers.

If your participants haven’t been adding incremental growth to your company, then taking a deep dive into your program strategy is imperative.

Question 2: How do sales growth and relationship building tie into your incentive’s objectives?

Incentive travel is not just a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. While it is an impressive reward, it’s also an incredible opportunity: when you get all of your top players together at the same time in a new environment, it’s time to ask them questions and have them share stories of how they achieved success.

More than that, incorporate networking opportunities and relationship-building activities into your incentive travel strategy. When you infuse methods of obtaining open feedback on company issues, you get insight into what your top players think of your company’s trajectory.

Keep an open ear to what your attendees say and find actionable, powerful truth.

Question 3: How do you maximize engagement throughout the earning period to ensure participants stay in the right mindset?

An incentive travel trip that happens 15 months after it is announced can seem a long way away to participants. What’s the best way of keeping them engaged and keeping the program front-of-mind? Continual, action-inspiring communications.

If you’re building a powerful incentive travel program, you can’t use a “set it and forget it” approach to communications strategy. One burst of communications—regardless of medium—at the beginning of the earning period will not yield prolonged engagement.

To keep momentum throughout the earning period—and to keep incentive travel participants engaged with your event after they’ve gone home—powerful communications are an important part of any incentive strategy.

More than that, a cross-media approach is necessary: just because your tech-centric millennials prefer to receive information via email or social media doesn’t mean you should exclusively use those formats. A mixed digital and print approach is the best way to get the sustained impact you need.


Question 4: How does your event complement or contradict other initiatives with your organization?

If your company offers wellbeing, sales incentives or other programs outside of incentive travel, they can piggyback off of each other to build into a huge ROI powerhouse.

Your incentive travel trip must fall in line with the branding of the other incentives you offer. You need to give your incentive travel trip a unique flavor that your participants can’t resist.

Question 5: How can you capitalize on the people who didn’t make it on the trip to help your program grow in the future?

The people who didn’t make it on your incentive travel trip may even be more important than the ones who did go.

Why? Because they see the photos and the Facebook posts—and they hear the cool stories from attendees. They don’t want to miss out.

This feeling—FOMO, short for “Fear of Missing Out”—is precisely what you want the people who aren’t attending your event to feel. When they see what an excellent time their coworkers are having on your incentive travel trip, they want to be part of it, and they’ll stop at nothing to be a part of it next year.

FOMO makes your attendees feel really good about earning their participation in your incentive travel trip, and it builds momentum in those who didn’t quite make the cut. It’s a win-win.

With a dynamic strategy at the heart of your incentive travel program, you’ll be able to use your program as a tool that truly gets more out of your people rather than sticking to the status quo.

Don’t just reward those who made the cut. Push those that didn’t quite make it in a strategic way and accelerate past your company objectives.

Jill Anonson

Jill Anonson

Jill Anonson has over 20 years of diverse experience in event management, incentive travel and sales strategy, and serves as the Events Strategy Advisor at ITA Group. Focused on continuous improvement and challenging standards, she consults clients and team members with impactful strategies and innovative ideas that deliver successful business outcomes. She is a Certified Engagement Practitioner, and certified through Pragmatic Marketing.