Why Incentive travel is still the ultimate reward

By Nick Merry

Travel has been seen as the ultimate incentive since the 1970's and 1980's when it really started to gain traction as a motivating reward. The main reason why incentive travel is so successful is because it taps into our human instinct for exploring new places. It also taps into our desire to escape from every-day life on a vacation.

To travel as a reward for reaching sales targets or KPIs is an incredibly enticing driver to an individual employee.  No matter how committed your staff are to their jobs, they always look forward to their vacation.

As human beings, we  are compelled by the spirit of the explorer and we long for escapism. Incentive travel tugs at these primal traits.

How is a "holiday" an effective use of budget? 

This question is asked frequently by executives when planning reward and sales incentives budgets. However if incentive travel is incorporated into a targeted rewards program, it is a powerful motivator to achieve all sorts of outcomes

Types of rewards programs incentive travel can be used for:


  • Sales Incentives: targeting sales teams to promote and sell a specific product or service
  • Channel Partner Incentives: engaging your resellers, dealers and business partners so that your forefront of their mind during their sales cycle.
  • Employee engagement:  motivating and inspiring staff to increase productivity.

Incentive Travel is scalable

Incentive travel trips can be scaled to suit almost every budget: from a small-scale local weekend break for 10 people to an all inclusive five star money-can't-buy international trip for a large group.  The recent IRF survey for 2017 found that the average per person spend for an incentive travel trip is US$4000. The use of budget is the key element as to why an experienced incentive travel house, like Motivforce, should be used in order to maximise the total budget to cover logistics, accommodation, food and beverage and of course onsite activities or tours. It is important to avoid common mistakes when planning an incentive travel reward which is where experienced agencies can advise accordingly.

Incentive travel can also be used as a short-term reward – such as a quarterly SPIFF program rewarding best sales performance for specific products - or as part of a long term annual program that rewards for  a number of behaviours or goals.

In a recent SITE survey by JD Power it was found that 99% of incentive travel programs are somewhat or very effective in achieving important objectives performance. 

The key findings from the SITE Survey were:

  • 60% of buyers report they plan to increase the number of people eligible for incentive travel awards in the next year.
  • Nearly half of all buyers say that budgets have increased.
  • Concerns around the state of the world economy have increased the importance of creating value, as 76% of sellers report working on greater creativity/innovated event design in order to increase value.
  • Despite general concerns of health and safety, buyers report the highest incidences of increased use of incentive travel to North America, the Caribbean and Western Europe destinations.

In the aforementioned IRF survey, it is estimated that 40% of US businesses now use incentive travel to reward and recognise their top performing employees, salespeople and channel partners.

So it can be said that group incentive travel is still seen as a very strong motivator as a reward due to a number of factors. These include scalability, networking opportunities as well as camaraderie amongst attendees, plus the after effects resonate for many years to come.

Winners become future ambassadors and champions of your company and the memory of the trip will encourage dedication to your brand or company in the future.

Attendees will share highlights of the trip with their colleagues or counterparts,  which in turn becomes a form of internal PR.

The memories, the pictures on office desks and Facebook posts, will last much longer than last week's groceries, or a tank of fuel paid for using a cash reward.