Get ready for a new chapter of incentives

Incentive programmes are now trending towards wellness and luxury, and with more downtime built in.   

Incentive programmes are trending towards wellness and luxury.
Incentive programmes are trending towards wellness and luxury. Photo Credit: Adobe/Vitalii Vodolazskyi

With borders continuing to reopen to travellers — Northeast Asia is the latest region to announce the removal of Covid restrictions in the coming weeks, incentive travel is taking off once again.

A webinar hosted earlier this month by the Incentive Research Foundation (IRF) examined incentive travel destination preferences and their impact on motivation. Participants included Rudy Garza, vice president of operations at Brightspot Incentives & Events, Rick Garlick, chief research advisor at the IRF, Anne Gorman, vice president, sales & marketing at Streamlinevents and Stephanie Harris, president at the IRF. They outlined various incentive trends, noting how pent-up demand is driving activity and that companies are seeing fewer rates of attrition on incentives too, with more interest and enthusiasm for incentives than ever before. 

Build downtime into your incentive programme. The webinar focused on how people are craving incentives with downtime built in, giving them the ability to relax and take it easy without any planned activities scheduled. It’s a view echoed in a recent SITE blog, published in September, featuring Andrew Rae, founder of incentives agency Another Way. He says the opportunity to document, enjoy or relish a specific moment in their day is important for delegates and that a packed agenda with no time to reflect is less attractive, given that opportunities to share are what turns an incentive into an experience.

Wellness and luxury-themed incentives are proving popular. Panellists at the webinar agreed that there is a greater focus on luxury accommodation, and said that delegates are interested in those ‘great incentives’ that offer them something they couldn’t or wouldn’t be able to do themselves. Luxury accommodation fills this requirement, and the popularity of wellness spas also compliments the idea of incentives being seen as an opportunity to indulge, restore and relax. 

Destinations that opened up earlier this year are still proving popular. While parts of the world such as Northeast Asia are reopening, delegates are still showing a strong interest in those destinations that have welcomed back visitors some time ago, such as Europe and North America, even if it is a place they have previously visited. 

Consider splitting your incentives over a period of time. Another Way’s Andrew Rae also points to how incentives have changed to fit into a post-pandemic environment. He suggests companies should split incentives over the year, allowing smaller groups to experience the same luxury, but one that fits with their own timetable.

“Stretching your budget to make sure the entire sales team is there together is no longer what breeds success,” says Rae. “By splitting incentives, the goodwill (and subsequent employee longevity) will far outlast a weekend, and enables you to communicate your incentive over 12 months, as opposed to the two nights enjoyed previously.”