Though they're lumped in with destination meetings and conferences, incentive trips are a special class of event. Many of the “basics” are similar— food and beverage, flights, hotel accommodations—but the priorities are completely different. As a planner, it’s critical to adjust your approach to this unique style of event to ensure your attendees enjoy their once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Unlike a typical meeting or conference, an incentive trip’s main focus is entirely on the attendee experience. Luxury, relaxation and entertainment are the driving factors in the planning process. Incentive travel groups generally have a larger budget for a single event than an “average” program, so it’s the perfect opportunity to heighten the experience with enhanced food and beverage selections and outstanding décor. Provide attendees with different activities and entertainment options rather than the standard meet-and-greet cocktail hour or speaker. Adjust your schedule accordingly and plan for hands-on activities, give-back and volunteer options, or even built-in free time.
Take the time to find out what is most important to attendees; a great way to do this is with snail mail. It may seem old fashioned, but it’s back in style, especially because people receive hundreds of emails each day. Sending a package in the mail with an invitation, a feedback form and teaser gifts, such as luggage tags, will set your trip apart. This will also help you determine the best destination for the group; a slow-paced boating trip down European rivers might be boring for high-energy attendees, while a mountain resort with hiking and zip lines might be unappealing for a low-key audience.
As for where to travel, off-the-beaten-path locations, sustainable venues and exotic destinations—think Azerbaijan, Croatia and Lithuania—are picking up steam. Cruises are a popular option as well. They offer all the things attendees need: food and beverage, lodging, entertainment and luxury. For planners, selecting a cruise means dealing with just one vendor who handles all elements of the trip
As with any travel, especially international, keep tabs on the latest in current world events and health concerns. The U.S. Department of State provides a list of travel warnings and alerts that you should monitor closely when deciding on a destination. Don’t forget to do research on your destination, U.S. customs and airline policies.
The thought of planning an incentive trip may be overwhelming when looking at all the moving parts. This is why professionals are sought after, not only as seasoned experts in planning a program of this caliber, but also to include touches that make it a trip guests won’t soon forget. Remember the advice above, and you’ll be saying “bon voyage” to any worries you may have once had!