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While safety and health are more important than ever to those looking to dust off their traveling shoes, it’s clear that incentive travel has increasingly been making a comeback after two years of restrictions and COVID-related fears.

In fact, the Incentive Research Foundation’s 2022 IRF Destination Preferences Study found that people are interested in incentive travel to motivate and reward employees more than ever—but all destinations are not created equally. A confluence of factors has many incentive program participants still wanting to stay closer to home, but with interest in international travel growing stronger as we roll into a new year.

In fact, the Incentive Travel Index reported that 67% of North American buyers have reported that they have resumed international travel. As we head into 2023, here are the top incentive trip destinations:

1. Hawaii

Who doesn’t like soft sea breezes and a perfectly temperate climate? According to the Incentive Research Foundation (IRF), Hawaii is the No. 1 desirable destination. While heading somewhere full of beaches and sunshine is often on the top of the list for incentive travel destinations, interest in Hawaii has grown. While this is a pricier place to visit, with more remote workforces and less overhead needed to keep an office building running, budgeting for a more luxurious experience might be doable. With interest focused on more meaningful experiences and immersion with local culture, USA Today reported that there are plenty of unique island activities for program participants to choose from—including coconut frond weaving, hula dancing, Hawaiian language lessons, and outrigger canoe rides.

2. The Caribbean

Also ticking that sunshine and beaches box is the Caribbean at No. 2. The same study found that interest in the Caribbean has grown from 2023 travel destinations. From learning about rum at distilleries to partaking in Carnival in the Dominican Republic in February, there’s food and cultural interests to keep your incentive trip program participants learning and eating during their trip. With a demand for wellness integration and luxury travel being a focus in 2023, there are also spas and retreats to check out and plenty of space to allow participants free time to explore.

3. Western U.S.

While there appears to be a renewed interest in overseas travel, going far enough so that it feels like a vacation but staying domestic is still high in popularity. Today, remote employees working from home are less interested in dealing with delayed flights and the general hassle that flying has created for so many in the last year. Direct flights are in—and long, arduous travel is out. While there was a definitive drop in interest in Alaska, states like Nevada, Oregon, and California, as well as a number of other states in that region, offer breathtaking sights and adventure. The activities and experiences are countless, and anything from beaches to mountains to unique expeditions can be found depending on where you go.

4. Western Europe

According to the IRF, France and Italy are top of mind when looking to travel out of the country.
And cruise lines are rising in popularity again, particularly Mediterranean and European cruises. The Global Meetings and Events Forecast also found that Madrid was attractive to planners given little lead time to plan. The U.S. dollar is also doing well in Europe right now, with one U.S. dollar equal to $1.03 euros, making it worth 20% more than a year ago, reported Forbes Travel. It’s also now 18% stronger against the British pound. Planners can leverage this savings, particularly through dining activities for guests and shopping. Rising prices and inflation in the U.S. could particularly make traveling to Europe an ideal spot for employee vacationing.

Whatever the destination, giving your employees time to relax and connect will be important in 2023.

Make sure you’re making the experience for your top employees a powerful one and plan ahead with Top Incentive Trip Design Best Practices. Knowing this year’s Incentive Travel Trends for 2023 can help you decide where to go and what to do as you plan for the coming year.

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