It's the ultimate form of reward: an all expenses paid trip to a once in a lifetime destination complete with food, fun, excursions and an extra seat on the plane for the guest of your choosing.
The incentive trip is a way to thank your company's top performers with an unforgettable experience. Unfortunately due to its travel and social appeal, it became another activity halted at the onset of the pandemic. And although the coronavirus remains unpredictable, the meetings and events industry did turn a corner in 2021. With face-to-face events starting to take place, we thought it was an appropriate time to check in on one of our favorite capabilities: planning incentive trips.
Are they still taking place? What will incentive programs look like in 2022 and beyond? Are there alternatives that can compete with these experiences? We detail all of that and more in this post.
The current state of corporate incentive trips
With concerns around travel and safety, are incentives still taking place? The short answer is yes, especially in our US region. Although at BCD M&E we have yet to see numbers that match 2019 levels, requests for incentives were received at the start of 2021 and began to take place over the summer. Due to the emergence of the Delta variant, however, a few programs did postpone until 2022.
In the UK, our team did plan a small number of incentive trips in 2021 as well. These events have been more challenging in this region due to continued lockdowns throughout Europe.
One consistent theme of the incentive programs planned this year was a client eagerness to execute. "This year, it seems like our customers are full steam ahead in getting incentives back," Event Manager, Katie Spooner, tells us. Regardless of the destination, people who were invited were very excited to attend and the programs that operated were a great success. "One client had an event with 100% attendance which didn't even happen before Covid."
Current Trends in Incentive Travel
In addition to an excitement around getting back to travel, a few trends emerged in planning safe incentive trips. In 2021, most incentive trips were to domestic locations such as California and Hawaii in the U.S. This is due to clients being risk averse and looking for destinations with the least likelihood of restrictions for travel and gathering. This trend is expected to continue into the first quarter of 2022 and until Covid is under control.
Customers also opted for smaller group sizes and locations with great outdoor space. One customer in the UK requested that we utilize local suppliers who had been hit hard by the pandemic.
Members of BCD Meetings & Events' Global Leadership Team present Platinum Circle winner with award during the company's 2020 incentive trip.
Planning Incentives in a Post-Covid World
At BCD Meetings & Events, we host an annual incentive program of our own, Platinum Circle, with the next trip set to take place in early 2022. As with all incentive trips occurring in this new normal, many new considerations must be top of mind to ensure a safe event delivery.
Selecting a Safe Location
This year, BCD M&E's Platinum Circle winners and their guests will enjoy a stay at the Hotel Xcaret Arte all-inclusive resort in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. As with most venues, the resort has placed information on safety precautions at the forefront. Additionally, hand sanitizer is placed throughout the location and signs reminding guests to wear masks indoors posted frequently. Hotel Xcaret Arte also offers complimentary on-site Covid testing with results available within 8 hours for attendees returning to countries requiring a negative result upon re-entry.
Photo from TravelPulse
Another key consideration for planning incentives is working closely with our clients to get the Covid conversation started as soon as possible. Establishing company policies around vaccination, testing or other precautions attendees must take prior to the trip allows for timely communication to deliver this information.
Communication campaigns also offer the opportunity to ease any concerns of the trip's participants. It's imperative to advise on all of the safety steps taken and provide information on where their questions can be addressed. If an attendee doesn't feel comfortable attending, they're provided with options including forgoing the current trip for a future one.
What will incentives look like in 2022?
With success seen across US incentive trips in 2021, our team sees a bright 2022 for these programs with the number expected to increase. "We have a lot of solid groups already booked for 2022. Assuming we continue to progress in getting Covid under control, we anticipate that the numbers of incentives we plan will grow exponentially," says Senior Experience Designer, Mindy Hanzlik. Our US has also picked up several new clients for 2022, resulting in a need for more staff to actualize these programs.
As far as international incentives, requests have been received for as early as the second half of 2022, with many more for 2023 and beyond.
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In the UK, those incentive programs that took place in 2021 are expected to continue in 2022 as well. But, the team is anticipating more requests to come in for the following year (2023) as uncertainty around Covid remains in this region.
If an incentive trip isn't an option for your group at this time, there are alternatives to consider for a rewarding experience. Many of our customers are still opting for virtual events, such as award ceremonies complete with celebrity hosts and musical performances.
Gifting experiences are also a great way to place tangible rewards into worthy hands. Imagine an internal dashboard where employees can track performance metrics and select high value or luxury items upon achieving professional goals. In North America, our ASPIRE by CORE Rewards offering aims to create strategic performance improvement programs.
Related article: How to Track Success of Your Performance Improvement Program