It’s not your CEO’s vacation

Paul Nolan

If it’s getting difficult for your incentive travel program participants to distinguish one trip from another, it’s time to freshen things up. “Tips to Improve an Incentive Travel Program,” a new eBook from the team at Brightspot Incentives & Events (, is designed to help planners elevate existing programs. Here are some highlights.

Focus on who – In addition to goals shifting, companies frequently lose focus on the true target — the employees or channel partners they are trying to motivate. Lots of voices have opinions on destinations, hotels, activities, etc. — but we ask: “Does the incentive experience surprise and delight the folks who are moving the needle?” Re-consider your target audience — including their demographics and psychographics — to keenly focus your thoughts. Create personas of program participants to gain a better understanding of them.

Ignore “not who” – It feels necessary to point out who should not be the target audience when making a destination selection. It’s not about your CEO. Female CEO’s prefer secluded spa destinations that offer days full of meditation and relaxation. A male-dominated audience won’t find that appealing. Likewise, many male CEO’s are avid golfers, so the 4-handicapper thinks the most motivational destination would be Pebble Beach or the British Open. But, golf is on the decline with millennials.

Don’t recreate vacations – Your sales VP had an amazing vacation in the Turks and Caicos last year and wants to replicate the experience for 150 winners plus guests. Or your VP of HR hopped on the wrong train in Italy, ending up in La Spezia rather than Sorrento, and now he always asks for Italy. Step back, revisit your personas, put yourself in their shoes and choose the destination that will motivate and reward them.

Better communication – The No. 1 mistake today is having a tiny communication budget. Don’t let your incentive program become the best-kept secret. From contest qualification to the pre-trip mailer, there’s an art to the promotion of the program details, the qualifying rules that drive ROI results, and keeping your program top-of-mind. preparation on the front end will create engaged participants and happy attendees on the back end. Communication components to implement:

  • A teaser prior to launch
  • A website for the latest updates
  • Kickoff kit
  • Regular newsletters
  • Pre-trip packets for participants

Authentic is in – It’s all the rage these days, accumulating experiences instead of things. It applies to everyday life and is just as relevant when it comes to incentive travel. Whether it’s an individual or group activity, authentic, once-in-a-lifetime experiences are the stuff memories are made of. It’s also what keeps your reps earning their way back each year.

Local culture can provide unique experiences. Think rum tasting in Jamaica, grape stomping and making your own wine in Sonoma, or folklore and fairy tours in Ireland. Create a selection of activities that connect your guests to the local community and provide inspiring experiences that teach your guests about the destination, and hopefully a little about themselves in the process. It will take a little time and effort, but it will be well worth it.

You can download “Tips to Improve an Incentive Travel Program” at