More Free Time, Fewer Mandatory Events Make Incentive Travel Opportunities More Appealing

By Mitra Sorrells January 10, 2012, 8:30 AM EST

When designing and scheduling events for incentive travel programs, less is more. That’s the message from a new study by the Site International Foundation and Incentive Travel Council. The organizations surveyed more than 1,000 people to determine what makes incentive travel opportunities meaningful, motivational, and memorable.
More than 70 percent of respondents indicated that a trip with limited mandatory functions is more motivating than one with several required events. According to Steve O’Malley, president of Site International Foundation and senior vice president of Maritz Travel, that’s a distinct change from 20 years ago when people preferred trips that offered full schedules each day.

“Incentive travel used to offer programming from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day that was structured and group oriented,” O'Malley said. “Now people are so busy and so inundated that they need time to disconnect, and that’s what they want. Fewer structured events make it that much more motivational for them.”

“The good news for companies is that leisure time doesn’t cost anything. And that’s what they [respondents] are screaming for,” said Jim Ruszala, past president of the council and co-chair of the study. He suggests planners give attendees a list of activities and ideas on how to spend their free time so individuals can make those decisions on their own.  

The survey also found that people eligible for incentive travel enjoy evening social events, but they don’t want something scheduled every night of the trip. And two out of three respondents indicated they were more motivated to try to earn a trip if they knew it would give them opportunities to interact with higher-level executives, not just their peers.  

When an incentive travel program is completed, O’Malley said companies should also do a better job of communicating about it to those who won the travel opportunity and to those who did not. “It can’t just be about the big event. Once you create that very positive impression, how do you extend that experience to motivate performance and spur increased activity and loyalty?”

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