How Incentive Travel Motivates MillennialsOctober 1, 2017

October 1, 2017

How Incentive Travel Motivates Millennials

CIT-2017-10Oct-Column2-Millennials-Damerow-860x418 CIT-2017-10Oct-Damerow,Steve-110x140Steve Damerow is CEO of Incentive Solutions. He is a recognized expert and published author, and hosts the national radio show “Business Matters.” Incentive Solutions currently manages hundreds of incentive programs in a variety of industries. Steve Damerow can be reached at:, 678-514-0203,

Sometimes it can feel like different generations are more like different species. The values, tastes and preferences that differentiate millennials, Gen Xers and baby boomers are more apparent than ever, because these generations are working side-by-side in an unprecedented workforce generation mix. For this reason, it’s important for managers and leaders to consider how generational differences factor into how to incentivize employees.

Consider travel incentives: do baby boomers prefer all-inclusive incentive trips to Hawaii, sipping mai tais and reading the latest James Patterson novel on the beach? Do millennials dream of exotic locales, undiscovered microbreweries and capturing every moment on Instagram? Of course, these are just stereotypes, but it’s vital that corporate event planners and incentive trip coordinators take these fundamental differences to heart when planning incentive travel programs. It’s not just about where different generations want to go — how they perceive travel incentives is important.

Let’s focus on the most recent generation to join the ranks of the American workforce: millennials. According to the Pew Research Center, more than one-third of today’s workers are millennials. They surpassed baby boomers in workforce population in 2013 and Gen Xers in 2015. That’s why it’s worth tapping into what makes them tick, now more than ever!

Millennials tend to get a bad rap. Headlines about them “killing” various industries are pervasive. Dubbed “The Selfie Generation,” they’re often criticized for being self-absorbed and addicted to social media. But there’s so much more to them. Millennials are the most open-minded and culturally aware generation today. Their “addiction” to social media can be seen as a desire for connection, communication and a sense of curiosity about the world at large.

When factoring millennial attitudes into incentive strategies, these traits make incentive travel rewards extremely motivating. Here are some of the reasons why:

The Value of Experience

As the first generation to grow up with the internet and home computers, millennials live and breathe technology. But just because they’re almost always on their smartphones doesn’t mean they’re not paying attention! More than any previous generation, millennials are embracing travel and exploration, always looking for something new. A Business Insider survey gauged millennials’ feelings about experiences and found interesting results:

  • 78 percent say that they prefer spending money on experiences rather than things.
  • 77 percent remark that their best memories are tied to experiences.
  • 72 percent say they want to spend more money on new experiences.
  • 69 percent believe that experiences help to connect them to the world.

Clearly, the experience economy is alive and well among millennials! As the Incentive Research Foundation (IRF) made note of in their 2017 Incentive Trends Study, “The focus for travel is not only on the destination and venue, but equally important are the authentic, unique, individualized experiences.” For millennials, incentive travel isn’t just jet-setting and sightseeing: More than anything, they crave unique experiences. In keeping with their interconnectedness through social media, being able to share pictures of an exciting adventure or a hidden gem allows them to broadcast their experience and feel part of a greater global consciousness.

Uniqueness and Diversity

“Continual connection to others worldwide has produced the first truly global generation,” writes Donald Tapscott in his study of millennial culture, “Growing Up Digital.” He goes on to point out that high rates of immigration to the U.S. have made the American millennial population highly diverse and multiracial. As a result, millennials tend to be more tolerant of and open to different backgrounds and lifestyles.

This openness means millennials are more likely to be motivated by travel opportunities that take them outside their comfort zone. They want to broaden their global perspectives by experiencing different customs, cultures and ways of life firsthand, and they want to share it with everyone on their social media feed. They pride themselves on being aware of the world around them and love opportunities to spread that awareness to others. According to ASTA’s recent study on American travelers, “exploring other cultures” is millennials’ most important reason for leisure traveling.

And all that touting of global awareness isn’t just lip service. Millennials are more engaged with social justice and global welfare than their predecessors. They care deeply about the environment and the well-being of others, and are quick to fight injustices against minority groups and the underprivileged. In a survey reported in Forbes, “of 684 investors, millennials were found to make more ‘social impact investments’ than any other segment of America.”

The opportunity in incentive travel to combine luxury, experience and the potential to enact positive change makes it an absolute dream for millennials. Not only does it motivate them to achieve sales goals and initiatives, it also generates company loyalty and respect: growing up in a world of massive corporate conglomerates, a company that encourages its employees to “give back” appeals to millennial values.

A Real Vacation

Growing up in a time of economic prosperity as well as the rise of accessible technology (home computers, cell phones and an endless stream of video games and other tech toys) has given millennials a reputation for being spoiled, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. With the majority of them joining the workforce at the darkest point of the Great Recession, many have struggled to establish careers and find stability. The average millennial graduated college with around $40,000 of student loan debt — and the average salary for millennials is less than $35,000.

Despite their collective wanderlust and desire for global interconnectedness, the sad truth is that travel is out of reach for the majority of millennial workers. Incentive travel rewards motivate millennials to work toward experiences they crave but may otherwise be unable to attain. In fact, the IRF’s 2017 incentive trends study found that the market for incentive travel is continuing to grow after the setbacks and slashed budgets of the Great Recession, and nearly 40 percent of U.S. businesses are now offering incentive travel rewards to recognize their salespeople and channel partners.

As the market continues to see increasing demand for incentive travel programs and millennials rise through the workforce ranks, now is the time to push incentive travel! Tapping into their unique thirst for travel is one of the best ways to retain top millennial performers and see a lucrative return on your investment. C&IT

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