Group and Incentive Travel Programs and Awards


What is Group and Incentive Travel (*) 
An incentive travel program is always paid by an organization or a company. It is a prize offered for top performance by a company to employees, service providers or clients. Employees or clients are rewarded with an Incentive Trip for having met a specific target or achieved a specific goal that the offering company has set.


a) Group Travel 
Collective experience that provides a platform for participants to bond, network, learn and foster relationships in a unique environment. Traditionally, this is the format most commonly used by organizations.

  • Once-in-a-life-time-opportunity: Group incentive travel is the ultimate form of recognition. Not only do attendees get to experience a fabulous destination with their colleagues, they also get personal recognition from their senior management. Plus, the trip involves activities and events that they probably could not duplicate on their own. The motivational staying power of this experience is high.

  • Promote camaraderie: The positive environment allows attendees to celebrate their accomplishments with theirs peers and key executives, establishing a level of relationship that is difficult, if not impossible, to experience in the office environment.

  • Offers possible learning Opportunities: Having a target audience in one place allows companies to maximize dollars spent on such efforts.

  • Maintains Momentum for Future Incentive Strategies: At the completion of a group travel program, participants are likely to talk about their experience to colleagues. These success stories can create interest for future incentives as well as motivate those individuals who didn't qualify to work harder the next time around.


b) Individual Travel

  • Ease of use: Individual incentive travel programs give recipients autonomy. Program participants can celebrate the accomplishment on their own time, without the restrictions of other people or mandatory events.

  • Celebrate with friends and family: Often, individual incentive travel awards are designed to include the award recipient and another person of their choice, giving the travel experience more significance.

  • Fits all lifestyles: Sports enthusiasts, spa lovers, or wine connoisseurs - no matter what your target audience prefers, chances are that there are individual incentive programs designed to meet their interests. Offering an award that meets specific needs is easier and easier, as more specialized packages become available in the marketplace.


c) Target audience 
Incentive travel Programs can be directed to different audiences with different purposes:

  • International sales people

  • Employee recognition

  • Dealer's distribution

  • Non-sales employee

  • Consumer or client promotion


Important factors about your target audience you should consider before organizing an Incentive Travel Program:

  • Demographics: Characteristics about the level of sophistication and expense necessary to motivate your audience.

  • Lifestyle: People have different needs and wants concerning a destination.

  • Relationship: internal and outside salespeople, employers, distributors, service representatives, consumers - all potential incentive targets have different levels of interest in the successes of you program.

  • Variety: consider offering a range of choices within your award mix. Offer a range of destinations, accommodations and lengths of stay.

  • Timely: The sooner the award is delivered the more likely it is your winners will remember they are being rewarded for a particular behavior or achievement performed on behalf of your company. Travel awards for a year long incentive should take place as soon as the results have been verified, preferably in the first quarter of the following year. Individual travel certificates should be delivered within 72 hours of when they are won


d) Program types: 
You can differentiate between two types of programs:


Open-ended programs: 
All participants who achieve a predetermined level of performance can take part in the program.

  • Standard: Participants earn a predetermined number of points for every sale they make

  • Qualified: Participants earn points only after reaching a minimum goal

  • Retroactive: Similar to a qualified program, but the payoff includes credit for sales leading up to the minimum goal

  • Escalating: the more you sell, the more you earn

  • Bid-and-make: participants set their own goals and are rewarded for achieving them

  • Team bonus: participants receive bonus awards if everyone on their team reaches the goal

  • Closed-ended programs:

  • Only top qualifiers can participate.

  • Lucky squares: make a sale and write your name in a square. Winning squares are picked at the end of the week

  • Pick 10: every tenth sales earns an entry in a sweepstakes drawing for the trip

  • Make your own odds: earn a chance to win for every sale

  • Only the top win: the top 50 achievers qualify for the travel award

  • Hit-and-win or buy-in: the top 50 achievers get the award; those who reach at least 50 percent of their goal can pay a premium and buy their way into the trip

  • Unequal thirds: Participants are divided into three groups and the top 20 performers in each group qualify for the award.


Multilevel programs: 
Participants win increasing levels of reward based on their performance with higher tiers tying into higher performance.



Reasons for Incentive Travels: 
There are several reasons for companies to use Incentive Travel Programs:

  • Increase market share

  • Win new customers

  • Promote a specific product

  • Pump up productivity

  • Boost morale

  • Build customer loyalty

  • Maintain business to business relationships

  • Incremental sales gains during the qualification period

  • Increase the percentage of audience that participates

  • Percentage of audience that met goal



Planning an Incentive Travel Program 
To maximize the motivational impact of the Incentive Trip, you should create a central theme of the campaign to keep it on every ones´ mind. Since the theme will appear on all collateral materials it should be fun, engaging, and universal. Whatever the theme, all graphics and written content should reinforce a positive message as well as promote the incentive travel award for maximum impact.


a) Step by Step Guidelines for Organizing an Incentive Travel Program 
Start your communication blitz by understanding the 5 areas of greatest importance:

  • the Program Launch (create excitement)

  • the Qualification Period (create periodic summaries of the incentive program's progress; the shorter the program the more frequent the communication mailing should be)

  • Mid-Program Motivation (send special e-mails or promotional e-mails to the participants; personalize all incentive-related letters with an executive touch)

  • Award Delivery (send a product that serves as a reflection of the achievement and the program directly to the incentive winner; highlight their contribution in a company newsletter or e-mail memo)

  • Post-Program Assessment (evaluate potential improvements for future programs; recognition doesn't end at the completion of an incentive program it should be ongoing)

Remember, promoting an incentive is about generating excitement throughout the program, so be creative.


b) Check List for Organizing Incentive Travel Awards: 
Selecting the right activities and destinations is one of the most complex tasks in constructing an effective incentive travel program.


Consider some of the following items:

  • Destination: Research the general features of destinations, to guarantee enough variety at the incentive destination so that the trip will suit each particular incentive traveler.

  • Features and Amenities: Any destination that you consider should have a well-developed travel infrastructure: a competitive selection of air carriers, hotels, ground transportation companies, and other travel related vendors.

  • Natural Attractions: Beautiful weather is something to look for, as are clean beaches, forests, or other ecological wonders that will arouse the interest of the incentive group

  • Nightlife: A world-class selection of restaurants, cafés, and bars always creates a buzz among participants. Theater and musical performances are key for some groups.

  • Historical Attractions: Landmarks, museums, and famous institutions, such as forts, castles, and historic sites might have special group tours, and they make unique venues for meals or meetings.

  • Shopping: Make sure it's appropriate for the spending levels expected from attendees. Score a bonus if the kind of shopping is unique to the destination.

  • Local Culture: Consider location-specific cuisines, indigenous music, dancing or art, and special events like a Samba dance shows in Rio de Janeiro, a soccer game in a Brazilian stadium or a Capoeira dance show in Salvador. All these things count as valuable cultural selling points.

  • Sports: Diving, boating and hiking are just a few of the sports participants favor for incentive trips. Discover the physical activities that attendees value most and look for ways to not just satisfy but inspire them with potential destinations.

  • Spas: They have become an often requested amenity, appealing to both women and men. Ask for marketing materials and testimonial to find the right local spas.

  • Gaming: This is a selling point for many groups but a turnoff for a select few. Make sure there are entertainment alternatives for group members who choose not to gamble.

  • Cruise: Incentive travel buyers can take their qualifiers to sea in one of three ways: full-ship charter, half-ship charter, and as a group. Cruising provides a desirable novelty for many qualifiers and often offers more for the same money on sea than on land, thanks to cruises' nearly all-inclusive pricing.


(*) Source: Incentive Travel Buyer Handbook", Travel and Performance Group