An Introduction to Corporate Incentive Travel and Events

The Key to Planning Effective Employee Incentives

Co-workers meeting in a conference room.
Co-workers meeting in a conference room. Thomas Barwick/Getty Images

An incentive event, also sometimes known as an incentive program or incentive trip, is a planned event or trip that is used to encourage people to achieve a specific business goal. An incentive event is often a program organized to recognize a specific individual or individuals who achieved certain goals whereas incentive travel or an incentive trip is a term usually used to describe a multi-day trip that is awarded to an individual or individuals who achieved specific goals.

Most often the goals set are related to sales and business development, but executives and managers have utilized these sorts of incentives for any number of profitable business goals.

How Incentive Events and Travel Work

While these incentives can range from a dedicated local program to an employer-sponsored vacation, when it comes to driving sales, many companies have found that destination-based reward programs (that is to say incentive travel) are some of the most effective forms of employee incentives. Incentive trips can serve as powerful motivation and improve your team’s morale and performance. Who wouldn't want to spend a few days away from work in a beautiful location all on their company's dime?

When it comes to incentive travel, corporate event planners will generally organize an incentive program with a trip to a world-class destination or resorts with the sole purpose of encouraging employees to achieve the specific goals that will qualify them for the trip.

The company will promote the incentive travel and the explicit goals that must be met to be eligible, and those who qualify are rewarded with an all-expenses paid trip.

What Makes Incentive Events Effective

When executed well, incentive events and incentive trips should both motivate and reward. Good incentive events will inspire employees to reach specific goals as well as serve as a reward for those who accomplish them.

While incentive travel can vary from organization to organization and even year-to-year for the same company, the most effective incentives are those opportunities that will peak the interest of your employees.

Ensuring that an incentive trip is incentivizing enough is the first step. The next step for an effective incentive event or trip is to promote the incentive travel and the eligibility criteria (such as sales goals). If employees are not aware of the goals, their deadlines, and the specifics of the incentive, the incentive cannot do its job to motivate performance. While most corporate event planners and the executives or managers involved generally do a great job with the promotion of the incentive travel, they typically fall short in the execution.

One of the most common mistakes with incentive travel and events is in planning the event itself and the follow-up. An effective incentive event should be an interactive and engaging method of inspiring employee morale and performance before, during, and after the event. That is to say that great incentives will motivate employees to attain the goals and the event itself should continue to motivate those high performers. While incentive events should always have fun and enjoyable components that don't feel like work (it should feel like an award), the most effective events and trips include activities and agenda items that teach and inspire.

What better way to reach higher goals next year than to have your top performers learn from one another? In the words of one great event management company, without "fanning the flames of motivation [your incentive event becomes] nothing more than a subsidized business party."