Amanda Robinson, Sales & Marketing manager, Custom Ireland, is one of two recipients of the David Riddell Memorial Scholarship, an award created in memory of SITE Past President David Riddell to provide an opportunity for worthy individuals to attend the SITE Global annual conference. Robinson was selected by the SITE Foundation for her enthusiasm and dedication to develop themselves as well as the future of the incentive travel industry.
This essay has identified five key trends, which are shaping the future of incentive travel. Experimental Travel, Technology and the use of Artificial Intelligence, Wellness Travel, Sustainable Travel and Personalization.
Incentive travel began as a humble method of showing recognition and way of rewarding the top performers in the workplace. The goal is to improve workplace morale, productivity and loyalty.
The goal of any incentive travel planner is to provide unique, memorable experiences that the ordinary traveller cannot buy. Today, as pressure increases on employees, the weight is on employers to show how much they value their workforce. As stated in a recent article published on Motivate, if someone is qualified for incentive travel, they are more likely to be overwhelmed with work obligations. Some 78% of worker’s feel they are working in a stressful environment.
Looking ahead, the industry faces certain challenges from the increased ease of travel, as attendees are in turn more likely to be well travelled and have greater knowledge of potential incentive destinations. Incentive travel has always been an exciting industry, and now as the economy improves worldwide – great positive impacts can be seen. As indicated on the SITE index survey 2018, budgets are becoming healthier and although increasing at a variable rate; this is still having a positive impact on the evolution of incentive programs.
As we investigate the evolving trends of the industry, it is also important to look at the generation incentive programs are now aimed at. As published on a recent article on Motivate – by 2025, it is said that almost 75% of the workforce will be made up of millennials who want more than basic salaries and benefits – they are motivated more deeply; the evolutional trends of the industry directly coincide with what motivate millennials.
Trends Shaping the Future of the Incentive Travel Industry
Experiential Travel is one of the main trends emerging in the industry. Organizers are now looking past the destination itself and taking a closer look at what the destination can offer. Incentive professionals have always sought-after bespoke experiences as part of the travel agenda, now there is even more emphasis on tailoring each element of the program. For example, five-star accommodation resorts are still hugely important, but millennial attendees want to experience the five-star luxury with a twist, like staying in a jungle resort in India.
Industry professionals endeavor to create something truly bespoke with the end goal of creating a lasting memory. SITE (Society for Incentive Travel Excellence) is a fantastic support network in the global incentive industry that creates memories that will last a lifetime and thus showcasing what works.
Local SITE chapter events give industry members the unique opportunity to network with industry peers from DMC’s, hoteliers to a range of other stakeholders, allowing like-minded people to come together and share experiences alongside gaining unparalleled knowledge from industry experts.
Technology is another factor, which is vastly shaping the future of incentive travellers. From using bespoke mobile apps for group communication to the state-of-the-art feature developments within hotels and venues. The fast-moving IT industry is positively affecting the progression of the incentive industry. The primal function of these tools is to enhance each guest’s experience throughout the program. With many incentive trips planned for global companies with attendees from offices around the world, the development of a personalized app is a fantastic way of communicating quickly and effectively to attendees prior to the trip. Another key finding the author discovered was how Artificial Intelligence is now used to study what motivates employees and thus giving organizers a better insight into what incentives work.
With stress and pressure levels increasing in the workplace another trend the author has identified is a higher interest in implementing wellness factors to incentive programs. Mental health is now spoken about more freely these days – a change hugely supported by millennials in the workforce. Wellness became one of the fastest-growing segments in the tourism industry last year and this is a trend the author predicts will begin to grow more rapidly in the coming few years.
While researching the topic of wellness, the author also came across an interesting point expressing – it’s important that attendees being rewarded with incentive travel trips know they are taking part in the trip to relax and unwind, and a corporate armor is not required – this is something that must be communicated by trip organizers.
On a side note, it’s inspiring to see a society as large as SITE not only supporting and acknowledging these trends within the industry, but also encourage its members to partake in wellness activities. The author recently had the opportunity to attend a networking event and listen to valuable insights from some fantastic guest speakers express their knowledge and expertise on wellness in the workforce – an event organized by a local SITE chapter.
Moving on from the topic of wellness, the author will now briefly touch on a very important emerging trend – Sustainability. In Ireland and many other destinations worldwide, hotels and restaurants are putting an emphasis on supporting local produce suppliers and only putting organically grown and locally sourced food on the menu. A change hugely welcomed in the industry. Incentive organizers are also more focused on finding eco-accommodation.
Personalization is another huge factor continuing to appear in the evolution of incentive travel. Personalization can add that special touch to a program, which in turn creates the everlasting memory. A huge budget is not always necessary to achieve this, sometimes the things we remember most, lie within the small gestures that show someone listened.
Incentive programs now really need to provide an element of choice for guests attending. What suits one, may not suit another so providing variety and a choice for guests plays a central role in helping to tailor a trip. Surveying guests prior to arrival is pivotal towards succeeding with this.
Over the past two and a half years, the author has witnessed the above trends evolving first hand working in the industry and is excited to continue to evolve with the trends and develop future programs in conjunction with these findings.
In the author’s opinion, working in an industry selling her home country as an incentive destination, is a dream profession and something she can proudly say she will always have a passion for.
SITE has already opened so many doors and really helped in the development of the author’s professional life and it would be an incredible experience to meet with like-minded individuals on a global level.
There are many trends involved in shaping the industry’s future it is a thrilling time to be involved in incentive travel. We’ll continue to see new trends emerge over the coming few years, but the five key trends discussed above are the ones to keep a close focus on. Incentive travel works. People coming together and creating magical experiences together works. The industry will continue to evolve and shape alongside emerging developments in the economy, technology and environment and we, as industry professionals, must work together to ensure its continued success.
About Amanda Robinson
Amanda has worked within the incentive travel industry for three years and has recently joined the team at Custom Ireland as Sales & Marketing Manager. She also joined the SITE Young Leader’s Committee in Ireland and has had an amazing experience so far. Her love for travel and exploring (both at home and abroad) encouraged her to pursue a career in this industry. Her favorite region of Ireland would have to be her home county – The Garden of Ireland. “It may sound biased – but I love Wicklow, the scenery is some of the best we have in Ireland. I also really enjoy testing out new restaurants and bars – Ireland surprises so many visitors with how incredibly delicious the food is – and I take full advantage of what’s on my doorstep 😊. I’m keen to further develop my career within this industry – both on a national and global level.”