What impact will COVID-19 have on incentive travel for 2021?

Posted by Lucy Humby

The global pandemic put a halt to travel plans as we entered a period of lockdown from COVID-19, which saw the world in quarantine for nearly half of the year. Travel restrictions are now being lifted, but how will incentive trips be impacted?

Now, as restrictions are being lifted, people are looking to enjoy their freedom, seek a change of scenery and make up for lost time by experiencing new adventures. For some this means at home, for others abroad.

The freedom still comes with some caveats though, issued by the government to ensure social distancing is utilised, to keep the public safe. There’s been an introduction of travel corridors which applies restrictions on the countries and territories from where you can travel to, without the need to self-isolate on return. With the constant fluctuation of updates based on the confinement or spread of COVID-19 within each country, means planning a trip, is not as straight-forward as it once was.

So, what does the future for incentive travel look like?

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What does this mean for Incentive Travel in this “new world?”

According to the Incentive Research Foundation, COVID-19 Adaption and Recovery report, 57% of would-be travellers reported feeling either very excited and grateful at the prospect or at least looking forward to travel.

But not everyone is so confident around leaving their bubble. There is some hesitancy and nervousness which can’t be ignored. In time, as the public gains confidence with the leisure industry, this will be applied for corporate travel.

However, governments are encouraging people to support the growth of the economy, by getting back to work.  This means there is an emphasis on sales teams to drive new business. And what better way to do this, than by providing a desirable reward to motivate better performance, like with an Incentive Trip.

By offering the opportunity to receive a memorable experience, we know, it will:

  • Incentivise staff to work harder
  • Boost daily performance
  • Improve attitudes
  • Achieve business goals

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Local or long-haul

The trip destination can be the centre of the entire incentive initiative. The theme for the programme can be designed around the location and the planned activities will motivate staff to strive to achieve the desired objectives, because they want to be a part of the winner’s trip.

The decision for organisations to make right now (with the help and guidance of expert event managers), is which destination to choose. Home or away? Local or long-haul?

One factor to consider when making this decision on destination is whether the trip is designed for individuals and a partner or group travel. An itinerary for individual travel, can be very different to group. Whilst confidence continues to grow around travel, people may prefer individual trips, to feel more comfortable. It is worth researching this amongst the targeted audience, to get a flavour for preference, in the planning phase.

To build confidence for staff who are feeling hesitant to travel across borders, the choice could be to stay within their own country. It is certainly the less risky of the options, giving more flexibility to adapt subject to required change.

A luxury experience can still be created, without the long-haul travel. Chances are, they won’t have experienced exclusive venue hire, 5* activities like cookalongs with celebrity chefs or attending VIP sporting events for a thrill, in their own country before.

For those more willing to travel a distance, flying can be considered as the safest mode of transport, with HEPA filters installed and clean air being recirculated every 2-3 minutes, plus PPE worn onboard as guidance. The contactless journey through an airport – from boarding passes downloaded onto mobile phones, automated check in desks, small snack bags provided on planes – also ensures limited opportunities for contamination.

For additional safety steps, exclusive vehicle hire for the duration of the event means better managed cleaning and sanitisation.

Guests will need to be prepared for the possibility of Perspex panels between tables at restaurants, no buffets, and al fresco dining at a reduced capacity.

However, the smaller group sizes allow for better networking opportunities, more 1-on-1 time and more interaction, which could be especially welcomed to build colleague relationships again, following a long period without any physical face-to-face interaction.

There is a potential to experiment, engage and excite through new experiences on the itinerary, as the trip budget can be utilised differently with less people. Whilst choosing activities that adhere to and respect social distancing rules. The crowded bars and nightclubs might be currently on hold, so now is the time to get creative with the itinerary.

Confidence boost from the experts

Now more than ever, it is important to choose a specialist events business to organise the trip and an event manager to host the guests. Here’s a few reasons why…

  • With so many moving variables surrounding travel, it’s our job to keep up with the latest advice and recommendations
  • We have local knowledge and feet on the ground in each destination to suggest socially distant activities and can provide current updates on the environment
  • We can help ease concerns for both the client and the guests – providing education on the steps being taken to ensure their health and safety, set expectations for the trip and explanations of the itinerary within safe parameters

2020 has certainly proved to be an interesting year so far. Even through this period of disruptions and adjustment, incentive travel remains a key motivator for salespeople, to drive better performance.

Venues are applying social distancing and safe-guarding measures as part of the required risk assessments to be able to be open and trade. With education and guidance to incentive winners, confidence in travel will grow, whilst the desire to travel will always shine through.

Sure, trips are going to be rather different for 2020-2021, but this is an opportunity to design personalised desirable rewards to your audience. This will ensure stronger engagement and buy-in, increased motivation and boost advocacy and loyalty.

CR Worldwide have a team of award-winning event specialists. To discuss ideas and inspirations for your next incentive trip or individual rewards, contact us today. Or check out how we have successfully implemented event solutions in these businesses.

Lucy has worked in the award-winning CR Worldwide events team for over 10 years. As a Senior Project Manager, Lucy has a passion for organising and managing a wide range of events, including incentive trips (both in the UK and abroad) and SPIF day roadshows.