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Rick Blabolil
July 24, 2013

In a Tight Economy, Experiential Travel Rewards Motivate Employees

A stagnant economy has definitely had an impact on incentive travel budgets. More than 90 percent of respondents to a survey conducted by Corporate Meetings and Incentives and the Incentive Research Foundation (IRF) said that reduced budgets and the economy drove changes to their incentive travel rewards. However, those changes don’t have to have a negative impact on travel incentives. Instead, the right changes can energize the travel incentives that are part of your organization’s awards program. For example, the timing seems right to shine the spotlight on experiential travel awards, and to find those experiences that are close to home.

Here’s the thinking behind my suggestion: Chances are that your workforce is trending younger and so you are sometimes challenged to find awards that resonate with this demographic. Experiential travel, which includes adventure travel, sustainable tourism, and corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs, could be the right kind of awards travel at the right time:

  • Adventure travel appeals to 35-47 year olds, although the Adventure Travel Trade Association anticipates an increasing number of Baby Boomers will also be opting for this type of experiential travel. Tip: If your travel awards mix includes adventure travel, be sure it includes a good balance of “hard” travel adventures—such as rock climbing and white water rafting—and “soft” adventures, which include opportunities for cultural interaction, sustainable travel activities, or programs that “give back” to a community. This kind of mix gives both Millennials and Boomers options.
  • Close-to-home experiential travel can be budget friendly without sacrificing the intrinsic value of the award. Tip: The U.S. and nearby destinations are rich in opportunities for experiential travel of all kinds, from a California winery tour to golf in Florida or black bear hunts in Colorado. An additional benefit to consider is lower overall costs for you and less hassle for travelers compared to overseas travel.
  • Corporate social responsibility has strong appeal to younger employees. Tip: Experiential travel that includes activities demonstrating corporate social responsibility is a win for the organization, the community, and the traveler. Consider this: 64 percent of Millennials responding to the Cone Communications Millennial Cause Study said their company’s “social and environmental activities made them feel loyal to the company.” Offering opportunities to give back is also important, as volunteering is known to increase employee engagement—71 percent of respondents to an LGB Associates survey said they felt more positively about their organization as a result of participating in a volunteer program
  • Sustainable travel experiences. Tip: These can range from hands-on work helping to protect fragile ecosystems to education programs for organizations that want to protect natural and cultural assets while managing their business.

A joint survey between the IRF and Corporate Meetings and incentives, showed that among incentive travel planners, the top challenges were “staying within their budgets (61 percent)… followed by generating excitement among potential qualifiers (45 percent)….” Experiential travel can meet those challenges, while giving your award winners a once in a lifetime experience. Learn More About Experiential Travel

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