Bonnie Boisner is Vice President, Event Management at Aimia Inc., a data-driven marketing, event and loyalty analytics company in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She has more than 30 years of experience ensuring the design, planning and execution of client events that engage, inspire and educate attendees. Bonnie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, visit http://www.aimia.com/en/capabilities/channels/events-management.html.
When executed well, incentive travel programs can reap a multitude of benefits for your business. They improve business results by increasing sales and spurring innovation from your employees or partners. They offer a wonderful opportunity for your business to recognize top achievers within the company and facilitate a culture where employees or partners can thrive. Incentive travel programs also create and strengthen relationships among all parties involved — your company, the participants, and even the host destination or country.
Your incentive travel program should give participants an experience they wouldn’t be able to secure on their own. The program must be engaging and exciting for participants. If it isn’t, you’ll risk a lackluster response that, in the end, won’t achieve your business goals. Creating a successful incentive travel program involves proper planning, strategic communication and a well thought out rewards mix that inspires your participants to take action.
In the last year, several incentive travel trends emerged that will continue to take center stage in 2016. To keep your programs cutting-edge and attractive to all achievers, keep these trends in mind:
Personalization in events has been popular for many years, and it will continue to be a major theme in 2016. Understanding the unique desires of participants is essential to making a memorable incentive travel experience.
Because of the multiple generations in the workplace today, incentive travel programs are becoming more multifaceted than ever before. Planning activities based on generational knowledge can be an effective way to design a program agenda. Each generation has varying ways in which they are motivated and want to be rewarded, so personalizing their experience is key. For example, we know many millennials want to give back to the community, and they desire an opportunity to participate in corporate social responsibility initiatives as part of their incentive travel program. A large health care provider displayed this by facilitating a CSR activity through the local United Way where achievers constructed wheelchairs for a local school. Gen Xers are more independent and appreciate “on your own time” incorporated into program itineraries. Regardless of your segmentation strategy, the goal of any incentive program is to know your achievers and create an experience that will help you accomplish the goals for your program.
Social media has forever changed the way we communicate with our families, our friends and our customers. It’s the way we share news, events, photos and anything else that inspires us. That’s why social media elements will remain a critical component of incentive travel programs.
Social media is an effective means of communication to continuously support, engage and inspire your participants along the way. Effectively incorporating the use of social media during your incentive travel program is also a great way to generate excitement among participants and future participants. When your incentive travel participants are having fun, they will want to share their experiences with everyone. Creating shareable moments, social walls, unique hashtags and photo-sharing opportunities will continue to be at the forefront of successful incentive travel programs.
As the demand for meetings and incentive travel continues to increase, supply becomes more challenging. Because of this, longer booking lead times have become a reality. We recently surveyed a number of our key suppliers in the event industry and uncovered some interesting statistics. They suggest booking your large incentive travel program two to three years in advance and medium-sized incentive travel program at least one to two years in advance. These numbers are staggering and put into perspective just how crucial the planning process is to having a successful incentive travel program.
For most of us, our smartphones are with us at all times. They wake us up in the morning, they tell us the time, and they keep us connected to our work and family. We can’t function without our phones. That’s why incorporating mobile into your incentive travel programs is a trend that will continue to grow.
Mobile apps are no longer a “nice-to-have.” They are now expected at events, from incentive programs to larger user conferences. Creating a mobile app for your incentive travel program has a variety of benefits. It keeps participants engaged by identifying and recognizing top performers. The app educates participants by pushing event details and scheduling changes. They also strengthen your relationship with participants by starting the conversation early and keeping it going long after the event has ended.
Aimia was one of the first event companies to deploy a mobile app for a client many years ago and since then, we’ve seen the adoption rate skyrocket year over year. On average, 86 percent of participants at Aimia’s clients’ events are downloading the mobile app and using it frequently.
Drones have been soaring into the event industry and will continue to be popular in 2016. Drones can be used successfully in a variety of ways. Drones are a great way to provide real-time videos and pictures at your event that can be shared by participants via social media. They have the ability to capture incredible footage unattainable by a traditional event photographer. Be sure to ask for certification and insurance coverage of your FAA Exemption 333 drone supplier.
The more diverse the attendees are, the more you need to be diverse in your program agendas. In order to keep participants engaged, you must deliver to the right demographics and offer multiple components to meet the needs of your unique participants. For example, rather than having one activity at any given time, we provide choice in our programs. Not everyone is going to want to go zip lining or play golf or go to a sushi-making class. We offer flexibility from activities, to gifting and even F&B options.
In 2016, we’ll see more opportunities for virtual reality to take center stage. This technology advancement can help both the meeting planner and the participant.
In-person site inspections may become fewer as hoteliers and DMCs are able to use 360-degree video to show details of the meeting space. You also can escalate your event by creating a custom virtual reality experience for participants. Imagine the excitement around launching realistic games for participants and using your own branded content within.
Incentive travel programs are an excellent way to motivate those in your business, but they must be carefully thought out and executed well. If your incentive travel program doesn’t leverage the latest trends, you risk your participants losing interest and becoming less inspired to help you achieve your business goals. Keep these suggestions in mind to continue building loyalty for your business. C&IT