by Devin Carver , November 16th, 2023

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In today’s demanding corporate climate, businesses are increasingly recognizing the importance of incentive travel programs as powerful tools to motivate and reward their employees. However, orchestrating a successful incentive trip involves meticulous planning, creative expertise, and intricate logistics that can be overwhelming to handle on your own. Enter a skilled, experienced event planner – the unsung hero behind the seamless execution of unforgettable travel experiences. These individuals can elevate your next incentive program from a mere trip to an extraordinary journey.

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What an Event Planner Brings to the Planning Process

While you and your team may have solid goals for your incentive program, an event planner brings a unique set of skills to the table to help you achieve those goals. Excelling at conceptualizing and designing the overall event experience, planners focus on understanding your objectives, creating memorable themes, and developing cohesive strategy that aligns with your brand’s mission. Their expertise lies in crafting engaging and memorable experiences that go beyond logistics.

Personalization is key to making incentive trips unforgettable. Planners curate tailored experiences, including unique excursions, team-building activities, and cultural immersion events. They design activities that resonate with attendees, creating distinctive experiences that will be talked about for years to come.

Still, even the most impressive incentive trip comes with the minutiae of coordinating travel arrangements, accommodations, transportation, and activities for the group – all of which can be logistically challenging. Luckily, planners are not only creative; they also excel at managing details. In the hands of an experienced event planner, you can relax and enjoy the trip without worrying about the organizational aspects.

What Is a DMC and What Is Their Role?

However, even the most experienced event planners may turn to others for help. If you’ve ever tried organizing a large trip that includes travel accommodations, overnight stays, and events or activities tied to the destination, you’ve likely come across a DMC – destination management company. From local stays to exciting excursions, DMCs act as knowledgeable experts about a given destination. These companies organize the details of a trip from lodging to uncovering a region’s must-see and must-do locations. 

Event planners and DMCs possess distinct skill sets that complement each other when planning an incentive trip. DMCs are often very familiar with particular destinations. Because of this, DMCs serve as an excellent resource when event planners create itineraries for an unfamiliar destination or need assistance with nailing down bookings. For instance, planning a conference for a hundred guests in a region with a language barrier can be challenging without the right resources. DMCs can help facilitate communications and provide confidence and security for the event planner in their decision making.

Further, as destination experts, DMCs can navigate the unique features of a trip. Let’s say there’s a special cultural experience coming up. A DMC can point this out to the event planning team and help them craft an immersive experience for their client. This kind of insider knowledge goes a long way when it comes to creating memorable experiences for a large audience. While doing your own research can introduce you to the area you’re exploring, DMCs provide up-to-date information and craft unique experiences you might not be able to find on your own. 

incentive travel group events

Importance of Choosing the Right Destination for Incentives

Incentive travel not only allows more people to experience a new destination and get a change in scenery, but it also boosts connections between team members, resulting in better working relationships. The right destination increases excitement for the upcoming trip, earning early buy-in from event participants.

Guests attending corporate incentive travel events are looking for authentic experiences and an opportunity to create new connections with their colleagues. Not only that, incentive travel can be a huge morale booster, increasing productivity by creating positive associations between employees and their company. However, the wrong location can prevent any of this from happening. 

Selecting an undesirable destination for an incentive event can result in low attendance rates and an overall bad impression of the company. To effectively plan a successful event, companies should look to event planners for guidance in what their industry is seeking in an incentive travel opportunity. This includes a healthy mix of destination-related activities, immersive experiences with the local culture, and relationship-building events among attendees. 

What to Look for in Incentive Travel Destinations

The latest insights from the 2023 Incentive Travel Index report highlight new emerging trends for incentive travel and event planning. Perhaps most notable is the shifting desire to travel to destinations closer to home. According to the report, “While decreasing distance of travel and increasing resort use, buyers are still looking for new destinations they haven’t used before.”

In other words, event planners need to keep an eye out for interesting destinations with resort offerings (a high-demand feature). In fact, there are a multitude of U.S. destinations that fit the bill. Additionally, the report indicates attendees are still seeking group experiences that highlight local culture, but they also want to participate in relationship-building activities. 

Similarly, incentive travel guests are also seeking exciting dining opportunities or bucket list destinations and cities. According to the report, they’re looking for an escape. That’s where the resort destinations come in. Cities have a bit less appeal while destinations that focus on unplugging and reconnecting with others are of high value.

With this information in mind, event planners need to look for incentive travel destinations that provide cultural sightseeing experiences while incorporating opportunities to strengthen relationships among guests. 

incentive travel destination

How Event Planning Agencies Can Improve Your Incentive Travel

While you might have a general idea of what you’re looking for in your next incentive travel destination, sorting out the details can quickly become a challenge. Experienced event planning agencies can work with you to pinpoint exactly what you hope to achieve during your next trip while creating a well-rounded experience for all of your attendees. 

Venue Sourcing

If you’ve picked a region for your event, you’ll need to find a venue for lodging, meetings, and possibly more. If hotels or resorts are not available for both accommodations and event hosting, planners can help sort through venues in the area, as well as plan travel logistics. 

Event planning agencies can reach out to venues you’re considering and gather the information needed to make a final selection. Further, they may already have established relationships with regional venues, which can be incredibly valuable, especially when it comes to budgeting and scheduling. More specifically, if you are concerned with budget limitations, event planners help negotiate rates or even bundle events to get a reasonable rate. In some cases, event planners might work with DMCs to find suitable venues for the planned activities. 

Costs

It comes as no surprise that one of the biggest challenges facing incentive travel is rising costs and inflation. That doesn’t mean your trip has to be less exciting or enticing. Event planners can help you identify destinations where you can maximize your event budget while still delivering the experiences attendees desire.

Established relationships, knowledge of destinations, and various strategies employed by event planning agencies can help save you money in the long run, and they’ll work closely with you to ensure you not only meet your goals but also stay on budget.

Regional Concerns/Experience

According to the 2023 Incentive Travel Index report, more and more attendees are growing concerned about the safety of their travel experiences, especially in regard to the destination. Destinations need to be perceived as safe from crime in order for attendees to feel comfortable on the trip. 

This may play a role in the increasing desire to participate in incentive travel programs that are close to the origin location, along with utilizing on-site meals and events, rather than leaving the hotel for meals and activities. All-inclusive resorts are popular for this reason.Event planning agencies with incentive travel expertise are familiar with what regions are safe for attendees, and because they act as your partner, they are on site to help you navigate areas new to you and your team.

Travel and Logistics

Perhaps the biggest challenge to organizing and executing incentive travel is the logistics. How are attendees going to get to the destination? What are the options for food and beverage?

Luckily, corporate event planners are often experienced in managing group air travel and finding hotels that can accommodate your attendees. It’s important to note that guests of incentive travel events want their experience to be easy. This means they shouldn’t have to worry about transport when leaving the hotel or resort grounds in order to participate in planned activities and events. Coordinating ground travel can include many moving parts to be properly executed, so working with a corporate event planner can take that stress off your team and attendees.

Activities

58% of respondents to the 2023 Incentive Travel Index survey said a successful incentive travel program includes relationship-building activities. While cultural experiences are still important when visiting a new destination, incentive travel events are also designed to promote engagement among employees and build relationships that lead to organizational success. 

Event planners can help your team plan a mix of activities incorporating local culture while promoting increased interactions with each other. Further, incentive programs offer an excellent opportunity to engage in volunteer events that meet corporate ESG goals, educate your team on local culture, and foster goodwill.  

Before planning your next company incentive trip, reach out to an experienced event planner. The right agency can match your team with the perfect destination, venue, and activities to cultivate new relationships and create meaningful experiences for your employees. Bishop-McCann specializes in travel experiences that are unique to your business while incorporating the unique characteristics of your chosen destination. To learn more, reach out to our team today!

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