One of the largest trends the incentive travel industry has witnessed over the past few years is the skyrocketing interest in creating unique, unforgettable experiences on an incentive trip. The destination used to speak for itself, but a 2016 Incentive Research Foundation study found that “authentic, unique experiences are essential” where singularity and social value trump prestige and status. There is a growing desire for one-of-a-kind events, authentic activities only found at that destination, and gifting experiences that ingrain a lasting impression on the participant. Unforgettable experiences are just one of the seven keys to starting an incentive travel program but might be the most important key for the foreseeable future.
Extraordinary, memorable events are what separates a top-notch incentive trip from a mere corporate-funded vacation. For new trips, experienced planners can be a huge help in crafting superior, and budget-friendly, events. A typical schedule will open with a welcome reception on-property to facilitate new relationships and keep the schedule light after a day of travels. Creative planners will highlight the best venues, whether it’s poolside, on the beach, or on a patio or lawn with jaw-dropping views.
Mid-trip evenings are often filled with “dine-arounds” to take winners off-property to experience popular restaurants. Or, incentive planners will tap unique local venues for a creative group dinner experience, like a Napa wine cave dinner or renting a celebrity’s private home. To dive deeply into local authenticity, a recent trend is dining with locals in their homes.
The final night is traditionally a gala dinner filled with recognition of top achievers, pictures, the nicest menu, and upscale décor and entertainment. Creative planners will recommend the best spot, whether it’s on the beach, dressing up a ballroom, or a sensational venue nearby.
Unique – local – authentic – experiences are one of the biggest trends. In years past, activities were usually golf, spa, and a catamaran sail. Today, it seems every destination has a zip line tour, a snorkel sail, and an ATV tour. Incentive travelers desire new experiences, especially the younger Millennials. Many travel planners are adding new twists to the traditional tours.
At Brightspot, our CMPs collaborate with destination partners to offer activities that are unique to the location – such as cenote cave swims in Riviera Maya, Napali coast boats in Kauai, Lord of the Rings tours in New Zealand, private behind-the-scenes Vatican visit, or cooking classes with a famous chef using local, organic ingredients.
Gifts that “Wow”
Room gifts, or “pillow gifts,” are a fun way to surprise and delight newer winners. They are simple to administer because everyone gets the same item, and they are often less expensive at $25 to $50.
Individualization was the first trend in gifting by engraving or monogramming the standard pillow gift, such as a monogrammed bathrobe, embossed leather item, engraved wine glasses, or Waterford crystal bowl.
Choice became the next trend in personalization. Maui Jim pioneered gifting experiences by bringing 12 styles of their high-end, polarized sunglasses and letting attendees pick their favorite pair of shades. Recent entrances to the gifting category include other sunglass brands, Bose headphones and Bluetooth speakers, watches, shoes, sandals, handbags, and more.
One word of caution: executing a gifting experience in a foreign country or small island is not as easy as shopping your local megamall. Adequate inventory, shipping challenges, and high import duties can create headaches quickly.
Localization is the most recent trend where gifts are sourced locally with artisans, which can be unique and cost-effective in foreign countries. One of our all-time, most popular gifts were custom-fitted, Italian-leather gloves in Florence.
Creating unforgettable experiences for your incentive trip is just one key of seven. Be sure to catch up on the other 6 keys to Starting an Incentive Travel Program.