Going Beyond Revenue

New research shows that incentive travel drives more than sales.

Pay me and I’ll sell.

Recognize me, reward me, celebrate me and I’ll sell way more, raising the bar, driving sales to the next level entirely.

Industries ranging from finance, insurance, automotive, IT and pharma clearly recognize the motivational power of recognition. To exploit it, they have developed sophisticated recognition and reward programs, the apex of which is the incentive travel reward.

The verticals listed above have been doing it for decades, so it must be working. Now, we have reliable data to support the contention.

The inSITEs series, produced by SITE Foundation, the 501c3 of Society for Incentive Travel Excellence (SITE), clearly demonstrates how company C-suite executives and the staff that participate on their sales incentives agree that incentives drive sales.

In “Corporate inSITEs,” Jim Spradlin, former chief executive officer at GROWMARK, a U.S.-based agricultural co-op, states, “We evaluate the number of qualifiers we have against the sales growth and overall income performance that we achieved in the same period so we can see if the data aligns — and it does.”

Staff at GROWMARK, in a separate study — “Participant inSITEs” — highlight overwhelmingly their preference for travel rewards over cash with 81% agreeing or strongly agreeing that they prefer travel rewards over other types of reward.

Growing More Than Sales

Of course, well designed incentive travel programs do way more than drive sales. Many of these programs are self-liquidating, with the program itself and any costs associated with it paid for by the incremental sales generated by those who participate in it.

The initiative itself is a profit driver, not a cost center. According to 2023 Incentive Travel Index research conducted annually by Oxford Economics for SITE Foundation and Incentive Research Foundation, 70% of companies understand this.

Secondly, incentive travel provides a suitable channel for high-performing individuals to express themselves. In the recent “Participants inSITEs” study, the second highest-ranking variable in terms of motivation to qualify for the program after the trip destination itself was “the challenge of qualifying.”

Incentive travel — driving results (sales and otherwise) through the trip of a lifetime — is a highly coveted means of keeping competitive high-achievers engaged and aligned as part of your team: and not ready to jump ship to a competitor.

Thirdly, incentive travel programs drive sales because of the many and varied ways they allow for qualifiers to be recognized as such in front of their peers. The recognition factor is as important as the reward itself.

In the delivery of incentive travel experiences, companies have many ways to recognize and celebrate the achievement of their qualifiers — a private pre-dinner drinks invitation to the CEO’s suite, for example, or the chance to join the CMO’s foursome for a round of golf, or maybe a shoutout or an award at the gala dinner.

Building Stronger Teams

There are other ways that incentive travel drives desirable outcomes that are not related directly to sales or revenue, but nevertheless crucial to overall company performance. Research now indicates that companies are increasingly targeting these outcomes.

These relate to company culture, values, relationship building, etc. If the outcomes described thus far in this article are tangible and measurable, then these are intangible, harder to calibrate. They are the “soft power” to the hard dollars previously discussed.

Over the years, the Incentive Travel Index has been tracking corporations’ attitudes to soft power versus hard dollars as a key metric for an incentive travel program’s success. Since 2019, intangible factors like fostering relationships, building cross- discipline teams, developing company culture and demonstrating company values have significantly outranked tangible elements like ROI, profit and revenue generation.

Corporations increasingly value the way travel rewards dismantle hierarchies, humanize workplace relationships and place the emphasis on human-to-human (H2H) interaction.

Incentive travel drives sales and builds strong company culture by changing the landscape, altering the conversation and focusing more on the person. When someone is rewarded, recognized and celebrated, they can be relied upon to perform to the highest possible standard and, drive sales.


  • Padraic Gilligan

    Pádraic Gilligan serves as chief marketing officer at the Society for Incentive Travel Excellence (SITE). He is also managing partner at SoolNua, a marketing agency working with destinations, venues, agencies, associations and hotels. Prior to founding SoolNua, Gilligan was vice president of Ovation, MCI’s global DMC network, and vice president of industry relations at MCI.

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