Knowing Your Audience to Pick the Perfect Incentive Travel Destination

Incentive travel managers are continually searching for new destinations and ideas to refresh their programs, but often struggle deciding on which to pursue. How do you focus on maximizing the effectiveness (and enjoyment) with so many choices? Companies frequently lose focus on the true target – the incentive travel program’s participants they are trying to motivate and reward. Lots of voices have opinions on destinations, hotels, activities, etc. – but we ask:

“Does the incentive travel experience surprise and
delight the folks who are moving the needle?”

The first thing we ask of our clients in any incentive program is to reconsider their target audience – including their demographics and psychographics – to focus your thoughts. Start with the demographics of your participants; the facts of who they are, where they are, and what level they’re at:


• Gender
• Age
• Income
• Are they employees, channel partners, customers, etc
• Functional role, job title, and seniority level
• Geographic location of participants

Knowing your audience’s demographics is a good baseline to draw from when considering broader decisions. That river cruise on the Rhine has fantastic views. It will be appealing to history buffs, but the younger audiences may not respond as positively to the lack of nightlife and authentic local activities.

Demographics are essential for forming generalizations, but psychographics is the real driving force behind making an informed decision on the perfect incentive travel destination.


• Current level of motivation
• Capability to improve, learn, or sell
• Level of travel savvy
• Lifestyle choices
• Attitudes, interests, and opinions

Having a firm grasp on what motivates your participants, what they’re interested in, and what they expect from an incentive travel program will give you the best insight for planning an unforgettable experience. While understanding the psychographics of your audience is more valuable, it is also much more challenging to quantify and average. Chances are, the psychographic profile of your audience is incredibly varied, and no two participants will want the exact same experience.

incentive travel destination audience

Will your audience respond better to a beach week at Los Cabos or a historical tour of Rome?

Tip from the Pros: Construct Personas

With so many different factors to consider, it can be difficult deciding which are the most important and common among your participants. The marketing world has developed the use of ‘personas’ to create an amalgam of the general demographics and psychographics. It’s much simpler considering the wants and desires of one persona versus one hundred individuals.

To get the ball rolling, we’ve created some sample personas to draw from and how we’d use these personas to make decisions on picking destinations, activities, gifts, and more!

This is Abel, Abel is a Sales Account Manager for a tech start-up

He’s 33. He makes $160,000 and doesn’t own a suit. This is his only his second year with GoBig Tech, Inc., and he won the President’s Club trip; the best job ever! His guest? His college roommate. You won’t catch him reading a book at the pool; he’s windsurfing today! Can’t find him? He’s at the swim-up pool bar or playing beach volleyball.

Destination preference: All-inclusive resorts, preferably in Mexico or the Caribbean.

Abel wants some free time but also loves any type of high adrenaline activity. Don’t waste your budget on $300 centerpieces and unidentifiable hors d’ oeuvres. Abel’s good with the buffet. Just throw in a great band at the after-party, and he couldn’t be happier.

Gifting preference: Maui Jim Sunglasses


This is Karen, Karen sells beauty products and lots of them!

She’s 42. She makes $60,000 and works from home (with the kids). She won Circle of Excellence for the last seven years and has been to every Caribbean island you can name. Her husband will join in, as they don’t get much time alone together anymore. You can catch her at the spa, reading a book, or taking a nap. Karen never gets to dress up and go out, and looks forward to the gala!

Destination preference: Classic city such as Paris, Rome, Lisbon, or Quebec City with free time to explore a new destination with her husband.

Make sure there’s a dance floor because she and her girls are going to live it up at the award ceremony. A spectacular venue and gorgeous décor will make it a night to remember.

Gifting preference: A local artisan shopping experience where she can pick something for herself, or maybe her kids back home.


This is Paul. Paul is an Inside Sales Rep at a telecom call center

He’s 26. He makes $35,000 and doesn’t own a passport. After three years at Telco, Inc., he hopes to be a supervisor next year. He needs to sell 15 more premium TV channel subscriptions, and he’s a trip winner! His girlfriend Stephanie will accompany him; she’s a 3rd-grade teacher. Paul’s looking forward to this excellent trip, which he’ll use as an opportunity to ask Stephanie to marry him.

Destination preference: San Diego, San Francisco, or South Florida.

He’s looking forward to a fancy hotel and looking like a rock star to Stephanie at the awards ceremony. Throw in a welcome gift and a day-pass for the local hop-on-hop-off tour bus, and you will have Paul’s loyalty (for at least another year).

Gifting preference: Couples massage or room credit for a nice dinner at the hotel.


Ignore the “Not Who”

Sadly, it feels necessary to include a section here on who should not be the target audience when making a destination selection.

It’s not about your CEO. Female CEO’s prefer secluded spa destinations that offer days full of meditation and relaxation, but a male-dominated audience probably won’t find that appealing. Likewise, many male CEOs are avid golfers, so the 4-handicapper thinks the most motivational destination would be Pebble Beach or the British Open, but golf is on the decline with Millennials.

Remember the average income of your participant as well. Your VP’s may love the 5-star brands of Four Seasons and Ritz-Carlton, but your group may live on 3-star budgets and feel uncomfortable with the fancy resort attire other guests are wearing, or $50 breakfast buffets, $30 cheeseburgers, and $20 drinks.

Don’t recreate vacations! Your Sales VP had a fantastic vacation in the Turks and Caicos last year and wants to replicate the experience for 150 winners plus guests. Or your VP of HR hopped on the wrong train in Italy ending up in La Spezia rather than Sorrento, and now he always asks for Italy. Avoid the pitfalls of letting the top brass dictate the incentive travel program with what they want out of it.

As planners, it’s a good practice to review how we are making destination recommendations. Everyone in your organization will have opinions and preferences, but remember whose matter the most: the participants.

Step back, revisit your personas, put yourself in their shoes, and choose the perfect incentive travel destination that will motivate and reward them!

improve your incentive trip

For more bright ideas like these, check out our tips to improve an incentive travel program. It has great info from our incentive travel experts on how to use better communication to increase buy-in for the program, choosing activities and experiential gifts that are unforgettable, and much more. We highly recommend this guide to anyone currently running an incentive travel program that is looking for fresh ideas!

Michael Pisterzi

Author Michael Pisterzi

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

More posts by Michael Pisterzi

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