Great Experiences Require Great Experience

Partnering with a knowledgeable incentive travel planner can be a difference-maker


You do a number of things as a leader to motivate employees, from effective onboarding, to constructive feedback, to helping make work meaningful. Let’s talk about a motivator that’s concrete, visible and memorable: group incentive travel.

Recognizing stellar performance is vital. Employee engagement software maker TinyPulse reports that employees who don’t feel valued are 34% more likely to leave their job within the next year. Haiilo, makers of an employee communications platform, reports that when it comes to how employers can help employees be successful, recognition ranks higher (37%) than more autonomy (12%), more inspiration (12%) or a raise (7%).

Tailored Experiences and Current Trends

Travel has universal appeal. According to the Incentive Research Foundation Report (IRF), in 2022, the percentage that found group incentive travel to be “extremely” or “very motivating” increased to 91%, with only 1% stating they did not find incentive travel to be motivating at all. It’s hard to find anything that appeals to more than nine out of 10 people!

When planning group incentive travel, the key is to know your audience. Every company has its own culture, and each person and team are unique. The key to success is curation (choosing from many options) and personalization (the ability to tailor that particular option to the person/team). A cruise might be perfect for one team, but too low-key for another. A hike in Costa Rica could be seen as thrilling or intimidating.

Program sponsors should combine the knowledge of their company and their team with some general trends we’re seeing in group incentive travel.

Sustainability – This matters to the organization from a reputation and recruiting perspective, as well as to the individual.

Health and wellness – While this differs from organization to organization, options from “indulgent” benefits like a spa to fitness options like hikes are no longer “nice to have” but instead “must have” components.

Experience over tangibles – Participants want to enjoy uniquely memorable experiences versus stuff. This is where working with an experienced planner can make the difference. We planned an annual incentive trip for top performers that included whisking participants away to Havana, Cuba, for a day of fun. This Herculean feat was accomplished with no less than four site inspections and a dedicated team on the ground in Havana to ensure each detail was reviewed and perfected.

Leisure time – Top performers want to relax while they are being treated on an incentive trip. The big welcome dinner may be replaced with free time for the top performers to explore the area on their own. We’ve also incorporated more family/ spouse/partner/guest elements.

7 Questions to Get Started

Although it can be fun to jump straight to “Let’s book a cruise for our top performers!” that approach can backfire. Who do you reward for what? How? Who knows about the program? Is it equitable? Does it fit the company’s values?

We’ve narrowed the questions down to seven:

  • What are your goals?
  • Who can impact the success of those goals?
  • What behaviors do those people need to show that link to success?
  • What would motivate them?
  • What’s the budget?
  • How will we communicate the program?
  • How will we measure the success of the program?

The most effective way to start an incentive program or refresh it is to find a trusted guide. Like many areas of business, working with a valued partner that brings deep vertical expertise can save time and money by incorporating proven strategies and reliable resources from the start.


  • Barb Ward

    Barb Ward, One10 Executive Vice President Travel & Events, brings 28 years of experience to the travel and events industry. For more information about how Barb and the team at One10 can help create a memorable incentive travel experience for your team, email

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