Could COVID’s end be good for incentives?

Covid-19 Could Be The Best Thing To Happen to Incentive Travel. Here’s Why.

Despite having proved time and again that incentive travel is a powerful motivator for organisations globally, it has by its very nature always been considered a ‘nice to have’; the cherry atop a pyramid of hygiene factors and rewards that motivate employees and partners to improve their performance. Right now however, because of restrictions put in by many governments to combat Coronavirus, all incentive travel was stopped, put on ice  and it won’t be a strategic tool for corporate organisations to use for some time to come. This has prompted some in the industry to question if we will ever see the return of incentive travel as we used to know it.

Incentive travel will most probably be the last segment of the travel industry to recover from this crisis. Leisure and some meeting/events are already tentatively rebounding as confidence grows that it is finally safe and OK to travel and meet again. But when incentive travel is given the go ahead, my belief is that we will eventually see it return stronger than ever before. The role incentive travel has as a key strategic driver in unleashing human performance will then become even more powerful in the future, and here is why I think so.

For years, the MICE industry and behavioural change agencies have championed, as the major benefit of incentive travel, the camaraderie and togetherness created by the experience, surpassing that of other traditional rewards. Spending time together outside of the work environment and experiencing new things together in foreign destinations brings massive benefits to organisational teams. However, in all honesty, it has always been a difficult sell, an abstract benefit that was impossible to quantify or define a measurable ROI to. These “soft” factors were considered an intangible, positive by-product but did nothing to aid the case for implementing an incentive travel programme or increasing the budget towards one.

Satisfying the pent-up demand for contact.

But the virus and subsequent lockdowns have changed all of that. Enforced isolation and lockdowns have made it abundantly clear that we took the ability to connect with our colleagues and clients personally on neutral territory for granted. Whilst organisations have realised and in many cases been surprised about how well they can work remotely, the fact is that virtual meetings are a bit like fake tanning lotion. Yes, it does the job and achieves the required results, but it is nothing like as good as actually spending time in the sun.

Lockdowns and isolation did not just rob us all personally of our holidays, eating out and the opportunity to experience new things. Theyalso denied organisations an effective opportunity to personally recognise and reward great work, to spend quality time with their top performers in a safe place where they can naturally share experiences and learnings, to simply chew the fat and brainstorm new ideas, strategies or product development: all the elements incentive travel provides in bucket loads.

When this is all over, the need to connect on a personal level, to simply spend quality time with colleagues and clients will be stronger and more important than ever. Travelling to new and exciting destinations, staying in quality hotels with amazing experiences will truly be something to look forward to, being both highly desirable and intensely motivational. The value of incentive travel has just multiplied exponentially over the last year and so, and if used correctly, could be a formidable tool in reinvigorating the world economy. It just might take a little longer than we’d like.

photo credits: euromic Turkey ods Turkey; euromic India Creative Travel; euromic Thailand CDM 

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