Despite having proved that incentive travel is a powerful motivator for organisations globally time and again, 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 place to combat coronavirus, it’s gone, put on ice for the time being and 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 know it.
Incentive travel will most probably be the last segment of the travel industry to recover from the crisis. Leisure travel and events will tentatively rebound first, as confidence grows that it is finally safe and OK to travel and meet again. When incentive travel is given the go ahead, my belief is that we will eventually see it return stronger than ever before, and its role as a key strategic driver in unleashing human performance will become even more powerful in the future. Here’s why I think so.
For years the MICE industry and behavioural change agencies have been espousing that a major benefit of the incentive travel experience is the camaraderie and togetherness that it creates. The benefit of spending time together, outside of the work environment, experiencing new things together in foreign destinations brings massive benefits to organisational teams. However, in all honesty, it’s 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 little to argue the case for the implementation an incentive travel programme or increase the budget towards one.
But the virus and subsequent lockdowns have changed all of that. Enforced isolation has made it abundantly clear that we took the ability to connect with our colleagues and clients personally for granted. Whilst many a realisation has been made, and in many cases surprised organisations about how well they can actually work remotely, the fact is that virtual meetings are a bit like fake tanning lotions; yes, they do the job, they achieve the required results, but it’s not quite the same or enjoyable as spending time in sun!
Not only have lockdowns and isolation robbed us of our holidays, eating out and the opportunity to experience new things, it has also denied organisations an effective opportunity to personally recognise and reward great work, to spend quality time with their top performers on neutral territory where they can naturally share experiences and learnings, or simply chew the fat and brainstorm new ideas, strategies or product development.… all the elements incentive travel provides in bucketloads.
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 facilities and taking part in engaging team experiences will be truly something to look forward to, being both highly desirable and intensely motivational. The value of incentive travel has just multiplied exponentially, 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.