Cultivate Blog

Posted by Madeleine Denebeim on 2/6/24 9:05 AM

After a few shaky years of compromised travel plans due to the pandemic, recent studies from the Incentive Research Foundation (IRF) and the Society for Incentive Travel Excellence (SITE Foundation) are showing promising growth to incentive travel with some exciting insights into what will make the 2024 travel season the best one yet. With 80% of professionals agreeing that incentive travel is gaining strategic importance, our Gifting Experts sifted through all the research so you don’t have to. 

This week, we’re sharing our top findings to make sure you nail planning your incentive trip this year. 
The new influence of incentive travel
Incentive travel reinforces business relations and motivation as much as it does the bottom line. Historically, incentive travel was just a ‘hard power,’ with the focus on how it delivered an average 112% ROI and boosted sales productivity by 18%. Now, the ‘soft power’ advantages, like enhancing culture, engagement, and relationships, are rising in popularity. The Incentive Travel Index indicates that 91% of travel professionals believe that incentive travel is pivotal in boosting engagement and fostering a healthy workplace culture. The spotlight is now on making each person feel individually recognized with appreciation suited to their personality and interests. 
Inclusive incentives bring new audiences to the adventure 
Part of the new approach to Incentive Travel is to appreciate more than just the top performers with an incentive trip because a vacation will make anyone feel and perform better. The IRF and SITE Foundation have found incentive programs have expanded from hosting a select few ultra-luxurious getaways to hosting tiered programs that include more people and more affordable or domestic destinations. 


New destinations that people haven’t explored before
Speaking of destinations, the IRF reports that 71% of people want to explore destinations off the beaten path. Whether to avoid busy tourist traffic or introduce your team to adventure and new terrains from previous years, companies are exploring new horizons in 2024, like Oceania, Alaska, and South Asia. 

Luckily, people still haven’t quite tired from the staple tropical destinations close to home, like Hawaii, the Caribbean, and Mexico. Domestic incentive travel is also growing in popularity, with top trip themes that explore local experiences, like the Southwest United States. At Cultivate, we offer special programs no matter where you travel to make your appreciation custom for your trip, from Western-themed gifts to major savings on gifting programs in Mexico! Explore the Lookbook for more details.  

Experience the Culture
As much as they’ll love the beach or hotel amenities, 60% of people want to engage directly with and learn about their destination’s culture and sights. When planning your itinerary, incorporating the local culture and cuisine into your activities is a must to make unforgettable memories unique to your trip for your team to recall long after returning to the office. 

There is a growing trend in incentive travel to offer exclusive and unique experiences beyond the average person's access. 53% want bucket-list experiences like VIP performances or event tickets, private cooking classes to make regional delicacies, or after-hour tours of historic landmarks, museums, or galleries. No matter what, people want to be directly immersed in your destination’s cultural experiences. 


A focus on health and wellness
The IRF’s 2023 Trends Report emphasized a balance of downtime and bonding activities. 89% of professionals agreed your itinerary must include some R&R time. Relaxation is unique to every personality; while some may love to play 18 holes during downtime, others will luxuriate in the hotel spa or try surfing lessons, which is why flexibility and choice are key. This includes offering varied scheduling options, allowing ample time between activities, and providing opportunities for group and individual experiences. 

While 46% prioritize free time, 72% stress the importance of relationship-building. Attendees seek connection through cultural sightseeing (66%), luxury experiences (58%), and group dining (57%). Letting people choose how they self-care during their incentive trip shows them how you’re going above and beyond to give them the vacation experience they deserve. Companies are integrating components like mindfulness retreats, fitness challenges, and spa excursions into their travel initiatives, recognizing the holistic well-being of their employees.
New approaches to appreciation
On-site Gifting continues to grow in 2024 as planners and companies see the value of giving tangible appreciation connected to their incentive trips, with the IRF reporting a 55% increase in event gifting budgets this year. While meaningfulness is the #1 priority of planners in North America and Europe, people are delighted when you change how you gift each year. So, if you splurged on one big gift last year, a multi-gift option like our ticket programs will be ultra-exciting this year, even with the same cost per person. By offering them the choice of combining tickets on multiple smaller gifts or saving them for a larger value item, getting to choose their gifts will make people feel utterly spoiled on their incentive trip. 

If you’re looking for additional gifting inspiration and advice, look no further than our On-site Gifting Lookbook here! With our expert approach to gifting, Cultivate can help you execute seamless incentive trip appreciation with Pre-event, Room-drop, Themed gifting, and more to give people a tangible memory of your appreciation for their hard work and dedication to your business.

Explore the On-site Gifting Lookbook

Topics: Event Planning, Experts

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