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Event planners often cite planning incentive trips as one of the most enjoyable aspects of their job. It’s easy to see why. Incentive travel is a chance to focus on experiences that last a lifetime. Attendees earned this trip by posting their company’s best results.

Not only is this a chance to reward the top performers for a great year’s work, but it’s also a chance to build connections and instill a sense of belonging and pride in the success of the company. Because this is not an event for all employees, it should have a flair of exclusivity, and above all else, incentive travel should be fun.

With those ground rules laid out, here are some of the dos and don’ts to make sure your next incentive travel program is as rewarding as possible.


Learn the Attendees’ Preferences. As mentioned, attendees earned this trip and should be treated like VIPs. Conduct surveys to discover how the group prefers to use their free time. Is a wine tour best? Or maybe a hike along beautiful red rocks? Do attendees want to travel solo or take their significant other? Where have attendees traveled before? It’s best to avoid a repeat when creating a once-in-a-lifetime experience. 

Partner With the Experts. One way to create unique experiences is to devise an itinerary filled with activities that can’t be done elsewhere. Here’s where planners should seek out local expertise. DMCs and CVBs are great resources for mapping out exclusive moments. You don’t necessarily need to send your group to a venue they’ve never been to as long as this experience feels different. Dinner at Epcot with an exclusive view of fireworks or having a local celebrity join a party are just two examples of ways to tweak a solid outing to make it extraordinary. With the right partners, such experiences can be had.

Keep it Real. The most rewarding incentive trip immerses guests into the destination’s culture. Avoid the tourist traps–let attendees go to those with their families on future trips–and seek out experiences that truly give a sense of place. You can have the group trek through ancient ruins if the destination lends itself to it, but you don’t have to. A stroll in a village or visit to a local farm can be extremely fruitful as well. 

Sourcing Local to the Destination. Sourcing local doesn’t just provide a unique experience of the culture, but is also a more sustainable way to procure meals, gifts, and activities. Sourcing menus from local, in-season, and sustainable foods can reduce the carbon footprint of the event and give them a taste of the local culture. When it comes to gifts, consider a practical keepsake that would benefit the local economy and artists native to the region. Immersing attendees in the destination and all it has to offer is what makes an incentive trip that much more unique and memorable.


Don’t Be Afraid to Source Sustainably. The destination you are selecting for these reward winners should be special. It’s also important to be aware of ways to reduce the carbon footprint of your events. When doing site inspections, ask your hotel if they have any CSR ratings and/or certifications and how they handle waste management. Also, be sure to understand what sustainable solutions they have in place already and how attendees can take advantage of those practices to reduce emissions from the event. Keep in mind a lens of sustainability when it comes to procuring and planning any incentive program.

Don’t Overdo it. Teambuilding activities and excursions are great–until they’re not. The last thing you want to do is wear out your guests with too much of a good thing. Before nailing down the agenda, read your audience to know their limits. A little downtime could be a big win before a night on the town. Attendees most likely won’t want to spend too much time on buses, so take geography into account when deciding where to send the group. And if you do happen to frontload a morning because there is an activity too good to pass up, balance it out with a relaxed afternoon. 

Don’t Go With Old Standbys. Incentive travel is also a chance for planners to break out of their comfort zone. There is definitely something to be said for going with what you know has worked in the past, but that also leads to a vicious cycle of repetitiveness. Need new ideas? Ask fellow planners at industry events or send out a social media query. See what’s worked for our peers and decide what works best for your next event cycle.

Planning incentive trips is a high reward but doesn’t need to be high risk. Plan ahead and make educated choices on site selection and activities. Attendees want to have a good time, so play to that strength!

If you’d like to learn what our team can do for you, get in touch with us.

Call us at 800-290-0311.