Planning a corporate incentive trip? Here’s how to choose the right travel destination to resonate with your travelers.
Corporate Incentive Travel Planning:
How to Choose a Destination
The power of incentive travel is undeniable. It’s a constantly evolving, innovative platform that satisfies an innate desire for immersive, transformational experiences – and if done right, it helps an organization meet or exceed its business goals.
If you’re investing in one of these shared values programs, it’s a considerable and exciting project. But to be successful, you need to carefully consider every aspect of your program – destination included. Before you put your finger on the map, take an intentional pause. Step back and ensure you have a clear understanding of the fundamental elements of your program. Doing this allows you to be audience-centric and deliver a full incentive program lifecycle that resonates with your travelers.
Every successful incentive travel program starts with asking the right questions. When choosing an incentive destination, start by determining your corporate incentive program goals. Specifically, what should your incentive program accomplish? Ultimately, programs are designed to influence behavior. Your business objectives may be to increase sales, drive new business relationships, team build or improve employee retention. Your goals, when aligned with your personas, will help influence your corporate incentive trip destination of choice. Is team building your goal? Consider a location that allows for plenty of group interaction, activity and immersion. Are you rewarding and recognizing top performers? A luxury destination that specializes in VIP treatment might be in order.
Knowing your key personas is imperative in choosing an incentive destination and designing an audience-centric program. Are your employees most comfortable wine tasting in Napa, touring Tate Modern, or cruising the Mekong? In mapping out your audience personas, analyze your demographics:
- What are the group’s activity levels and style?
- Who will they be traveling with? Friends, family, significant others?
- Do they have passports?
- What are their interests? Sports? Architecture? Food?
- What are their expectations?
- What are their job roles and goals?
For instance, is your audience a group of well-traveled top performers who are accustomed to luxury and relaxation? Or is this a less-tenured sales group seeking immersive experiences and nightlife over sophistication? You might opt for a secluded getaway versus an urban, immersive experience. If your guests want poolside service and a variety of activities, choose a sun-and-fun destination that can can support a robust itinerary and dynamic event design.
"A key component of successful incentive programs is keeping the ultimate reward exciting, new and relevant."
In analyzing your audience demographics, one of the most pertinent questions you need to ask is “Where have they been before?” A key component of successful incentive programs is keeping the ultimate reward exciting, new and relevant. Your top performers deserve what’s best…for them. Knowing who you are trying to reach and what motivates them will make it easier to narrow down the destinations you source.
Planning domestic travel for both poolside and adventure lovers? Re-Imagine Puerto Rico – No passport, no problem.
Not every destination is ideal for every group size. A city like Miami (with its myriad hotel options and activity options throughout Southern Florida) can easily accommodate group sizes from 25 to 4,000. Whereas, you’d need to be a little more selective with a river cruise through Europe. The destination options will vary by group size, so be sure to have a clear understanding of your traveler count – including onsite staff, event planners, and employees.
Hosting a large group and seeking plenty of group activity options? Re-imagine Miami.
Budget & Time Frame
Time and money – they go hand in hand when planning a successful incentive program. Budget is going to affect your destination, but it doesn’t need to define the experience. Transformational experiences can happen anywhere from at a yoga retreat in India to a night at the Grand Ole Opry.
Depending on your business objectives, an employee incentive getaway can last from a handful of nights to a week or more, but weekend getaways can work for smaller budgets. Once you have a clear understanding of your personas and budget you’ll have a better perspective of the destination options that best fit your timing. Say you have six days with a group who loves coffee, music and art? Vienna could be perfect. Lower budget and less time? Austin offers similar tastes and could be ideal for a weekend getaway.
Seeking bucket-list luxury? Re-Imagine Peru (Hint: There’s more than meets the eye).
Ease of Travel
Airlift and accessibility are fundamentals when choosing your best incentive travel destination. Ensuring everyone can make it to the trip sounds obvious, but it’s an important consideration – for both your budget and the overall experience. When weighing destination options, always do a comprehensive air analysis. If you’re headed to the South Pacific from the U.S., some guests may have a mandatory overnight in L.A.
If your group is headed to Nevis, for example, you’ll need to account for the number of flights to St. Kitts and the transfer options to the hotel. It’s also crucial to consider how all of this weighs on your travelers. You’ll also want to consider the infrastructure within the destination. How far away is the hotel from the airport? What are the conditions of the local roads? Ultimately if the destination is the right fit, but getting there requires a flight to a chartered bus, to a private yacht, just ensure your planning team is prepared. You’ll need the budget, creativity and communications plan to make getting there (and back) comfortable, enjoyable and memorable.
Time of Year
The time of year in which you travel can have a dramatic effect on every aspect of your event design. Weather, holidays, and pricing are all considerations for every destination. While the south of France can be lovely year ‘round, you’ll be hard-pressed to find substantial hotel accommodations in the winter. Be it winter or summer, New York can be a fantastic destination, but your activities will vary accordingly. For obvious reasons, you’ll want to consider hurricane and typhoon seasons when opting for tropical destinations. Holidays, like Chinese New Year, can drastically affect mobility with some Asian destinations. And of course, the ideal times to travel to any location are always going to be the most expensive. Off-peak travel times can offer fewer crowds, more hotel space and lower pricing if you play your cards right. When aiming for a certain time of year, consult with your travel planners to combine all of these factors.
Planning a highly customized incentive? Re-Imagine New York any time of year.
Even during down time, technology is a way of life. While nowadays, you’re able to stay connected in most places on the planet, tech capabilities and cost are still key considerations during the sourcing phase of your program. When tying this back to your business objectives for the trip, the ability to stay connected at a hotel property, resort or cruise ship, can be a priority you don’t want to overlook. Consider the a/v and production requirements of any ancillary business meetings, awards celebrations or galas. If your travelers have expectations for connectivity – needing to touch base with families back home or continue performing at their jobs – you’ll need bandwidth, reliable connectivity, and possibly even quiet workspaces, for everyone to stay happy and productive.
Ensuring the safety and security of your group is not an option – it’s paramount. Risk management is an important goal in any travel program, but safety is especially important for incentive groups. Your group of travelers is the most valuable asset of your organization. Beyond any doubt, your cities, spaces and itineraries need to be safe. Embassies should be available to assist with visa issues, supplier contracts should mitigate risk, and local vendors should be properly insured (and in some cases, government certified). Don’t rely on reputation; have your event solution designers weigh in and connect with Convention Visitor Bureaus and trusted Destination Management Companies. Above all, know your audience. While you may want to push the boundaries in choosing a new destination, you also want to avoid causing any anxiety or fear of travel, as the destination sets the entire tone of your incentive program.
In search of immersive culture, safety and connectivity? Click below to Re-Imagine Singapore.
Bear in mind, the meeting and events landscape is dynamic and enterprising. Countries, cities, hoteliers and suppliers across the globe are constantly evolving to accommodate the needs of today’s corporate groups. As you consider your destination options, be open to variety. Part of that creative approach might involve viewing a familiar destination in a new light – reevaluating the ways it can support your business objectives, traveler personas and event architecture.
At BCD Meetings & Events, our Event Solution Designers have their fingers on the pulse of the industry. Our experts are constantly working to consider (and reconsider) all facets of destinations for our clients – be they bucket-list, trending or tried-and-true. Click below to experience incentive destinations around the world.