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7 Powerful Incentive Travel Trends You Need to Know for 2024

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7 Powerful Incentive Travel Trends You Need to Know for 2024

Historically, incentive travel shows impressive results. On average, incentive travel boosts sales productivity by 18%. It also has an average return on investment of 112%. 

Additionally, a study by SITE Global found that 96% of respondents agree that incentive travel programs are “very effective or effective in achieving program objectives” as measured by increased sales and/or revenue. 

But financial returns aren’t the only indicator of success. Successful incentive programs strengthen business relationships as much as the bottom line. 

We dug into the top industry reports to help you make a better choice for your incentive travel program. Read on to discover the top seven incentive travel trends that you should be considering. 

1. Incentive travel moves beyond traditional ROI.

Two-thirds (66%) of buyers expect soft power benefits. Improving culture, engagement, and relationships are vital to a successful program. (Incentive Travel Index: 2022 Survey Highlights) 

The desire to motivate and engage a dispersed workforce has never been more crucial. 

The Incentive Research Foundation (IRF) cites Loneliness and a lack of collaborations the top concerns facing employees and managers. Despite challenges, there is optimism that incentive travel can relieve a socially starved workforce. 

According to the 2022 Incentive Travel Index (ITI), 91% of travel professionals agree that incentive travel will have a greater impact on building engagement and establishing a healthy culture. 

To remain competitive, companies must think beyond traditional ROI in favor of soft power benefits. 

  2. Incentive travel is strategically important to business success.

Drivers of strategic importance: retaining talented employees (67%), bringing together a dispersed workforce (49%), greater need to keep channel partners engaged (18%), competitive advantage in the hiring process (11%). (Incentive Travel Index: 2022 Survey Highlights) 

Incentive travel has moved beyond loyalty. 

It now encompasses an integral part of a company’s business strategies. Maybe that’s why 80% of respondents from the ITI survey agree that incentive travel is gaining strategic importance. 

The old model of buy-this-get-that isn’t the only goal for B2B brands today. Now, manufacturers, dealers, and distributors are incorporating incentive travel to shape specific business behaviors. 

According to reports from the Incentive Travel Index, 67% of respondents report a greater importance on retaining talent is contributing to the increasing importance of incentive travel. 

With the rising costs of inflation and other workforce challenges, companies must leverage the power of incentive travel programs to not only gain loyalty, but to also retain top performers, channel partners, and acquire new talent or business. 

3. Incentive travel moves closer to home.

Buyers expect to use these destinations in the future: 53% U.S contiguous, 51% Caribbean, 47% Mexico, 43% Hawaii. (Incentive Travel Index: 2022 Survey Highlights) 

According to the Incentives Research Foundation 2023 Trends Report, rising prices due to inflation, limited flight options, and uncertainty are driving forces behind the desire to stay closer to home. 

While travel distances may be decreasing, expectations haven’t changed. Participants agree that luxury hotel accommodations and experiential activities are important to a successful incentive program. 

The Incentive Travel Index indicates: 

  • 66% of participants desire new destinations. 
  • 51% of participants want all-inclusive resorts. 
  • 49% of participants want destinations closer to home. 

Whether participants are in the contiguous U.S., the Caribbean, Mexico, or Hawaii, the value of each program is in the experiences offered alongside the destination. 

4. Downtime and connection are top priorities for attendees.

89% list downtime as the most important factor for incentive travel. (Incentive Research Foundation 2023 Trends Report) 

The 2023 Trends Report goes on to say that successful programs in the future must put a greater emphasis on flexibility and choice. 

Here are some examples mentioned in the report: 

  • Offering more choice for schedules.
  • Allowing more time in between activities.
  • Blocks of times scheduled to recharge or catch up on work.
  • The opportunity to shift from group activities to individual activities. 

Not only that, but nearly half (46%) of participants believe free time is integral to a successful incentive program. However, that doesn’t mean attendees want to spend all their time alone. It’s quite the contrary. 

The Incentive Travel Index states 72% of respondents list relationship-building as important to a successful incentive program. 

Attendees want to connect: 

  • 66% desire group cultural sightseeing experiences. 
  • 58% want luxury group travel experiences. 
  • 57% enjoy group dining experiences.

Buyers that can balance free time, become more flexible with their schedules, and create opportunities for teams to connect will have a competitive advantage moving forward. 

5. Sustainability and giving back loom large.

Nearly half (46%) of European companies and one-third (29%) of North American companies list corporate social responsibility as an important factor to a successful incentives program. (Incentive Travel Index: 2022 Survey Highlights) 

The ability to give back as a team is an important factor for incentive travel attendees. 

Along with giving back to local communities, creating environmentally sustainable programs is increasing in importance for participants. 

Among those surveyed, 48% of European and 34% of North American participants agree that incentive programs should focus on lowering their carbon footprint. 

Environmental sustainability of travel to the destination was also important. 32% of North American respondents and 40% of the rest of the world believe environmentally conscious consideration should be taken for travel. 

Adding environmentally and socially conscious programing to incentive travel can offer desirable benefits for select participants. 

6. Health and Safety are still top of mind.

78% of respondents perceived health and safety as crucial to a successful incentive travel experience. (Incentive Travel Index: 2022 Survey Highlights) 

COVID restrictions may be easing, but that doesn’t mean that participants have thrown caution to the wind. Of those surveyed: 

  • 96% reported health as an increasing concern or no change from the previous prior. 
  • 97% reported overall safety as an increasing concern or no change from the previous year. 

Buyers who keep health and safety top of mind when structuring events stand to gain against competitors that don’t factor health and safety as greatly important. 

7. Incentive travel will rebound to pre-pandemic levels by 2024.

61% of buyers expect incentive travel activity will recover above, or slightly above, 2019 levels by 2024. (Incentive Travel Index: 2022 Survey Highlights) 

Unsure buyers have a choice to make. Either climb aboard the incentive travel train or get off. 

According to the ITI 2022 Survey, 80% of buyers see rising costs and inflation as a challenge to incentive travel programs. However, there is growing optimism. 

Industry professionals believe incentive travel will reach or exceed pre-pandemic levels by 2024 – and that includes per person spending. 

The 2022 ITI Survey states 64% of buyers expect per person spending on incentive travel will recover above, or slightly above, 2019 levels by 2024. 

Businesses that maintain their incentive travel budgets stand to gain a competitive edge through 2024. 

Conclusion 

The rules of incentive travel are changing. No longer is incentive travel about honoring loyalty. It has shifted into a deeper, more strategic approach. 

Businesses looking to attract and retain workers will benefit from adding incentive travel programs. Additionally, those looking to add or improve business relationships stand to gain. 

Winning incentive strategies must offer new destinations that are close to home, provide all-inclusive accommodations, and offer unique experiences. 

Buyers must also structure programs that allow for flexibility to remain competitive. Attendees desire schedules that allow for downtime and opportunities to connect as a group on their own terms. 

 

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