As 2017 sales incentive contests head into their final quarter and 2018 award trip planning starts to kick into high gear for a new and exciting season of winner incentive trips, it is a great time to get a sneak peek at M&IW’s leading incentive trends. I had the privilege of presenting on this topic at our recent Client Summit with Nicole Raudabaugh, CMP, CIS, Account Lead/Sr. Buyer, Global Incentive Services.
State of the Industry
To help us better understand the trends, let’s take a brief look at the state of the industry. Recent survey data illustrates how organizations have fully realized the role incentives play to engage their sales teams, employees and channel partners and their results in both bottom line and top-line growth. More than 84% of American companies use incentive programs. US firms alone invest more than $90 billion dollars annually in non-cash incentives such as incentive travel, merchandise and gift cards, according to IRF 2107 Trends Study & SITE Index 2017.
The stakes are higher and expectations greater. The incentive trip planner isn’t just planning an event, they are designing engaging experiences. And, not cookie-cutter, one size fits all – but rather experiences that match the energy flow of the group and the individual award winners. Personas and journey mapping is a hot new concept with incentive travel design.
The objective is to create a “Journey Map” based on personas as opposed to demographics. Identifying groups of people who share similar attitudes, behaviors and motivations and outline specific elements each day of the program based on the different personas’ appeal. For example, “Fit-to-Travel,” “All Things Social,” “Work B4 Play,” etc. Each persona values different elements so it critical to match the group activities and experiences with their journeys. Applying this principle to the travel incentive program design not only helps improve the attendee experience, but also the company’s bottom line.
An All Encompassing, Immersed Experience
As an industry, we are moving away from just providing “unique and WOW experiences” and moving toward total engagement. With the use of technologies from the mobile app experience to virtual reality, we can engage the qualifier before they even leave their doorstep. Experiential travel is now about fostering emotional attachment to the brand. Next-level experiences tap the true emotional engagement. Capturing the experiences from unique angles, such as drones or Go-Pro devices, provides lasting impressions long after the trip has concluded.
The strength of the US dollar, has created a resurgence in international destinations. Tenerife/Canary Islands, southern France and less traveled areas of Italy are emerging as an exciting European alternative. Iceland, where the infrastructure is finally starting to catch up, is capturing the imagination of a true Icelandic expedition and discovery. Panama continues to grow in experiences and infrastructure. Adventure hot spots are trending including Banff/Whistler, New Zealand, Costa Rica, and South Africa.
Giving Back is Not Going Away
Seventy percent of programs include a corporate social responsibility component and we expect that number to continue to grow. The industry has seen a definite uptick in the last three years and new types of experiences are popping up as a result. Tying a group activity or corporate team building to foster employee teamwork with the outcome of significantly stimulating income generation for people in a developing country is the top of the list. Attendees not only want to have a great experience themselves, but want to leave a destination knowing they made an impact in the community and world.
Health and Fitness
Health and fitness is becoming an increasing element of every program. Healthy meal options, allowing time for workouts, group activities that focus on wellness events, and gifting experiences that include athletic wearables, sneakers, yoga mats, on-site personalized athletic wear and classes are all the rage.
In summary, incentive travel programs still need to be life-affirming, jaw-dropping and create memories that connect to a bigger purpose. Being memorable and exclusive hasn’t changed. However, what is trending is how the incentive planner’s role involves creating “personalized” journeys that ignites the senses, recognizes stellar achievements, and inspires winners to work even harder to be part of your elite incentive trip year after year!
Want to learn more about journey mapping and the newest incentive industry trends as well as take away some trip ideas to implement into your 2018 program? Join our Global Incentives Services team in November for our Incentive Trends webinar where we will go into greater detail on this topic and much, much more!