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From entertainment to experience; the rise (and impact) of incentive travel

August 29, 2023


By Ian Cummings
Global Head CWT Meetings & Events

Incentive trips build lasting memories and create an impact. They are a great way to unite, motivate and retain talent across an organization. At the recent Accor GME 23 (Global Meeting Exchange), CEO Sebastien Bazin stated, “it's impossible to segregate business travel and leisure”. Incentives highlight this point where itineraries rotate around experiences and leisure activities rather than training or workshops. We have been witnessing an ongoing evolution of incentive travel over recent years, especially post-pandemic. Incentives are truly back in focus for most corporates and it’s not just any one reason that’s driving this focus.

Engage your team 

Many companies are still struggling with the balance of working from home, office days or even full time return to office working in a very limited number of cases. So how do we ensure teams are connected, employees get to know their co-workers outside of zoom and benefit from interdepartmental networking? How do we ensure new recruits develop lasting relationships to navigate the way of working? How do they know brand values and what their business stands for? And of course, how do we build critical retention and engagement strategies? Many of our customers see an investment in incentives as a clear path forward to help solve some of the above issues.

Have an impact 

The world of incentive travel has been shifting from “consumption to contribution” over the years. From “entertainment to experience”. Incentive travelers are seeking authenticity in their experiences, positive contribution to their CSR activities, strong connections with the local community, lasting legacies in what they do and creating moments in life that they will never forget. If we can stir someone’s emotions to the point of tears – that is the kind of impact, we should all be striving to achieve.

Be the SUSTAINABLE travel driver 

Our industry has a duty of responsibility to leave a destination in better condition than when we arrived. Think of the damage that has been done to some of the world’s most over visited sites or cities: the Acropolis in Athens, Barcelona or Venice as destinations, or entire countries such as Iceland or even some of the most famous national parks in the USA. Consider encouraging your clients to look at non-peak season months (or shoulder months) or propose alternative less explored destinations. 

Finally, try to incorporate CSR activities that include support for local charities, spending on local businesses and sourcing F&B from local produce making a learning experience out meals or refreshment times. Walking and cycling activities have minimal impact on the environment, use trains or public transport where possible especially across Europe, and support marine welfare if you’re visiting a coastal location.

Some of my most impactful travel moments have included an hour spent packing food for children in support of Rise Against Hunger, visiting a game reserve with a major focus on sustainability and animal welfare. But my true bucket list moment was watching the sun rise above the snow-capped Atlas Mountains on a November morning in Morocco.