Will incentive travel remain relevant in the 2020’s ?
large incentive travel groups

Will incentive travel remain relevant in the 2020’s ?

In the past, incentive and reward trips have been used with great success to boost staff motivation as well as reward performance and creating positive engagement between employees, managers and the organisation. 

Since COVID 19 pandemic, it seems like everything has changed : real life incentives are gone, international travel may have died for a long time to come and it may be that the only viable path for the future is through digital, virtual events ? 

Would international MICE incentive travel solutions past 2021-2021 still prevail ? Will incentive travel remain relevant and to what extent…?

In this blog, we take time to explore some of the most important competencies, skill and expertise of any good incentive house or meeting planner. And while virtual events are getting their due share of interest, we remember not to forget from the strength of what has been shown to create high levels of joy and satisfactions to professional crowds : 

  1. The ability to envision unique, original events and working hard to turn the vision into reality, 
  2. On the ground expertise to implement the key mission through an impeccable delivery, 
  3. An endless focus on great customer experience.

Not giving in to panic, taking stock of planers core competencies

Probably the first step to take would be, despite the pain and giving due respect to the huge loss for a many of well established or less established players : not to panic. For many business owners, for dedicated, busy managers, seeing suddenly years, decades of hard work going away in smoke, events being canceled of course, letting go of staffs, seeing others simply shutting down operations and contemplating the same, panic is a normal feeling to go through and that needs to be acknowledge. Yet panic should never be the energy under which to operate. 

With the pandemic, it has become all too often the cases for good, reliable agencies, used to creating and planning beautiful events over many years of professional services, to suddenly move the area of virtual, fully digitalized events, not knowing really how to run them and/or what would make such events successful, what would be the key factors of success or the factors for failure? Experience has shown that creating great experience online is a very different job than real experiences in a group of people together, indoors or outdoors.

Would it be wise to expect, within months to learn the skills to do something new while giving away the hard-learned skills and experience that used to make the pride of the agency ?

Instead, ironically taking advantage of the situation, there is no choice but stepping outside (for a long while) and wonder : what were these core competencies and expertise from planners, incentive houses and event organiser upon which their pride, reputation and clientele was built?

What would 20 century incentive trips aim to achieve ?

In the field of incentive, seminar or meeting planning, any business owner or experience manager knows the most imperative challenges to deal with. From an empirical viewpoint, there is an absolute requirement for safety on one hand, and another one for high level of engagement, meaning and inspiration… In other words, logistics and supply must be under total control on one side, and on the other side, participants need to be given a chance to really enjoy themselves and feel good about the meeting. 

By looking at the  Incentive Travel Industry Index (produced under the patronage of SITE https://www.siteglobal.com/siteindex), the key insights gatherers about the incentive travel business confirm the same imperatives XXX

Put in business terms, I would describe the  challenges for an organising company as such:

  1. Logistical and financial: ensuring safe, secure, economical approach to large group travel  
  2. Brand, image and inspiration : within the safe confine of a destination how to inspire and motivate the participants ? the teams and the leaders ? the individuals and the group ?

In our case study, Bidvest was looking to meet these criteria and Singapore was chosen. The program was built around rewards and highly entertaining teambuilding exercises as well as development strategy, consisting of  6 full days in Singapore including one day of meeting with leadership, business and personal competency development plus three full  days of teambuilding, each day applied to different strategies to inspire Bidvest for the upcoming year.

The Solution

Initializing contact, the CEO of Bidvest flew in Ludo Odier, CEO of OIA and Eunice Chua, GM MICE for TourEast DMC to Johannesburg to creatively brainstorm and develop the theme of imagination for their incentive program. 

On the first day, participants were taken on a discovery race and heritage exploration of Singapore while experiencing a challenge of investment and trade management. The second day was situated by the beach where groups built the most imaginative sandcastles they could, constructing not just a creative design but also co-operation and strategic planning. The groups were later given a book written by a passionate entrepreneur about the art of Sand castles making in relation to leadership and management. The last day led to a Gala Dinner of artistry, brush strokes and pigments of colour to create masterpieces of Van Goh, Picasso and Matisse. This culminated in a Bidvest Art Exhibition before and during the final Gala dinner.   

The Outcome from a great incentive

The agency received great positive feedback from Bidvest management. They commented that they were energized by the imagination of business moving forward. Participants enjoyed the creative and variety of incentives, such as the discovery of Singapore, business management and connecting with hidden talents. The CEO of Bidvest thought the high level of management was above expectations and felt truly inspired.

The core competencies to plan a great incentive

Taking a step bac, what were the core competencies and master expertise that truly contributed to organising a great event ?

  1. The ability to envision a unique, original event and turn the vision into reality : truly Bidvet CEO was wanting to challenge his most senior people to be part of a culture where expanding your imagination and reaching frontiers is part of the culture… That applies in senior management as well as across the people.  By taking the extraordinary out of the ordinary, the incentive programe was able not only to convey the meaning but also provide a truly felt experience for it.
  2. On the ground expertise to implement the key mission through an impeccable delivery: Creative & powerful concept are not enough even though they are needed to ignite the vision and power up the delivery. As with any recipe, the execution is key and therein in the details lies the devil. Hence execution on the ground, with applied safety, training, briefing combined with speed of execution and economy of means as budget should never be simply ignored, all of these are essential and should lead to smooth, impeccable delivery
  3. An endless focus on great customer experience : any event activation, from vision to ground experience and delivery lies in human experience. Hence the third and last factor for any good planner competencies is about leaving participants energized, ensuring spirits are high. Typically doing so involves acknowledging people talents and helping participants connect and even discovering these hidden talents, while helping organisers see how such talents and energy will help achieve business goals