Top 9 Must-Do’s for Post-COVID Incentive Trips

Vaccines are being rolled out, and post-COVID incentive trips are being planned in preparation for the booming return of incentive travel programs. Brightspot’s recent webinar featured our experts’ nine must-do’s for every incentive travel program looking to get started back up as soon as possible. The 2020 incentive travel industry index from SITE, FICP, and the IRF shows the demand for incentive travel is increasing, both from companies and participants alike. Now is the time to jump back into planning!

1. Schedule 2021 trip for Q3, Q4

59% of participants in the index study expect a major recovery in Q3/Q4 and are actively planning incentive trips for the back-half of 2021. The pent-up demand for travel is starting to become glaringly apparent, and companies are eager to return to their corporate retreats and President’s Club trips. However, the “next normal” for travelers is yet to be realized. Will there be vaccine requirements for international travel? Necessary testing before boarding? Incentive travel agencies, like Brightspot, are actively monitoring travel laws, both foreign and domestic. Hiring an incentive travel company can greatly reduce risk, overhead, and hassle, as well as keep the program compliant with international travel standards every step of the way.

2. Be strong

Studies are showing things are getting better, especially with vaccines on the way, but companies are still more risk-averse than ever before. Despite the hesitancy, the incentive travel index study reports 83% of executives are remaining committed to incentive trips. Staying strong on the path to normalcy (or as close as we can get) not only reassures employees that things are heading in the right direction but also gives companies a first-mover advantage on deals in airfare and room nights while the rest of the pack catches up.

3. Manage risk

Having a risk management plan is going to be more important than ever and will need to be updated with new health and safety standards from both governments and venues. Hands-free and contactless options of all varieties will need to be implemented as well as a myriad of other disruption-preventing measures. In an IRF disruption study, planners estimated that 25% of their total time was planning for disruption and having contingencies in place. Professional incentive travel planners are extremely valuable when it comes to reducing risk and preparing for every possibility.

4. Make small tweaks

77% of planners are predicting moderate change or no change at all to programs in the long run. Minor tweaks to incentive travel programs in the post-COVID environment will be more important than making radical changes to keep a trip safe and engaging. Sure, the buffets will be changed out for table service, and masks will be required in close proximity in the foreseeable future, but there’s no need to make the entire trip outdoors or drastically reduce winners because there’s not enough spacing on the transportation. Start small and work up to what’s necessary!

5. Adjust agenda

Little changes can make a big difference in improving the health and safety of post-COVID incentive trips, and the changes can be made in a way that’s favorable for both companies and participants. Outdoor welcome receptions can replace the buffet dinner and allows participants the freedom to dine where they wish. Group activities like catamarans are being swapped out for semi-group activities like speed boat snorkel tours where everyone is in their own boat and can manage their own level of interaction. Attendees are always asking for more free time in post-program surveys, and now is the time to grant them their wish!

6. Dollarize soft benefits

Normally, sales resulting from a trip or payback on a trip are the measures of success, but this year it is time to put a value on the soft benefits. Make assumptions on the value of employee engagement, customer satisfaction, relationship building, and retention and calculate ROI with that in mind. Many sales cycles in the B2B space require a 12-18 month timeline; when factoring in how much training and retention tie into the importance of that process, many incentive trips are well worth their cost.

7. Stay close to home

International travel is a big question mark at the moment when it comes to timing, restrictions, and precautions, so incentive travel experts are suggesting finding domestic gems to fill the gap. 2021 could be the year to rediscover new experiences within North America that are truly unique and out-of-the-ordinary. Check out this list of our top domestic incentive travel resorts, all located in the USA. Leave the passport at home and save the overnight flights for 2022 and beyond.

8. Avoid bad habits

Be careful of falling into the classic incentive pitfall. DO NOT substitute the trip for cash! While many incentive managers would see why it’s a poor return on investment to offer cash as an incentive, we still saw a large majority of companies offer the lump payout. Now when participants come back next year asking for that same cash payout, there is less program engagement and excitement and increased expectation of compensation. Keep the award as similar to the initial offering as possible. Individual incentive travel is a fantastic alternative to group travel and gives winners a luxury experience with the freedom to choose where to go.

9. Don’t be last to the party

Travel demand is increasing, and with increased demand comes price hikes. When everyone feels good about traveling and staying in hotels, it’s too late for planners. Get ahead of the herd and lock in rates while they’re still at a discount! Good incentive companies, like Brightspot, will work with you to negotiate contracts that have flexible Force Majeure and attrition clauses that still give wiggle-room but lock in the value.

Be sure to check out these tips to improving an incentive travel program for more bright ideas that benefit your club trip. This webinar had more Q&A questions than normal, so if you have any questions or would like to explore how we can make your incentive trip the bright spot of your company, please feel free to drop us a line!

Michael Pisterzi

Author Michael Pisterzi

Marketing Manager | Tech-centric marketer with a dedication to relationship marketing in the incentives & events industry.

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