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Incentive travel

Survey: Incentive travel still rates highly as motivational tool

Imtiaz Muqbil  Sep 05, 2010

Travel awards still rate highly as motivational tools for enhancing employee productivity but suppliers of such tools and incentive programmes are set to face more pressure to prove that they deliver results.

That is one of the major conclusions of a survey conducted by the Minneapolis-based Society of Incentive Travel Executives (Site) International Foundation to assess how global economic conditions are affecting the incentive travel business.

The survey sought to probe the status of incentive travel as a motivational tool among companies, as against other "rewards" such as gift cards, cash and merchandise. It was designed to pinpoint forecasts and trends, along with both internal and external challenges to the business and how they impact market stability and growth.

A total of 131 qualified incentive travel and motivational event users and providers registered in the Site index database from 12 countries responded to the survey, representing a response rate of 23%.

According to the report, in comparing their personal belief of the efficacy of various extrinsic motivational tools, respondents state that travel is "impressively more effective" than cash, gift cards and merchandise.

"Looking back, three-quarters of respondents believe that the power of external motivators has stayed the same or increased over the last three years during this time of economic downturn. Only 25% saw a decrease in their effectiveness."

A majority (62%) of respondents expect the use of motivational travel to increase in the next six to twelve months with a much higher percentage (84%) predicting major improvement in the one-to-three-year span.

At the same time, respondents stated that the requirement for measurement of return on investment/return on objectives (ROI/ROO) is expected to grow even in the short term.

Fully 73% of respondents forecast growth in the next six months with an even greater increase in the next few years.

Senior management will become even more involved in the decisions regarding motivational travel and they will expect justification for their programmes through ROO and ROI measurement, the report said.

Firms that provide motivational travel events must be certain they have a viable method for measuring ROO and ROI and can demonstrate these metrics for programmes, it added.

Asked how they felt the power of external motivators like events and merchandise has changed over the last three years, 55% said it had increased, 25% lessened and 20% said it had stayed about the same.

Although "a strong belief exists that there is still a place in employee compensation for all extrinsic incentives," there is an equally "strong belief among respondents that cash, gift cards and merchandise incentives pale when compared to the power of motivational travel."

However, when asked to compare their personal beliefs to those of their clients, there emerged a significant drop-off in the idea that travel incentives are more powerful.

According to the report, travel incentive providers will need to gain greater insight into their clients' perspectives of motivation or award offerings to optimise their programme efficacy.

With respect to gift cards, it appears that clients see their value as greater than do respondents.

In essence, clients may want gift cards to be more motivating than they actually are.

Creating a true evaluation of the efficacy of gift cards may be within the realm of full service incentive providers.

However, the report says that of major importance to incentive planners is that 87% of respondents agree that the effectiveness of various motivational tools varies depending on the generation of those to be motivated.

This is a call for designers to offer an array of options in motivational programmes, so that participants from different generations will find the right reward/activity for themselves, the report said.

"This is consistent with the 'cafeteria-style' benefits programmes that have become more popular. It suggests that choice should accompany motivational tools (options for merchandise, etc. and a list of possible activities for motivational travel events)," the report added.

The trends toward green incentives and the inclusion of business meetings in motivational travel programmes are both expected to rise consistently over the next three years.

Respondents also see increased use of international destinations in the next few years, mainly at the expense of local and regional programmes.

Another survey was conducted for the first time this year by organisers of the meetings and incentive travel exhibition IMEX Frankfurt which asked over 1,000 hosted buyers immediately after last month's show for their views on social media, industry blogs and Smartphone usage.

Although 46% of respondents confirmed an increase in the use of social media for networking over the past six months, 44% of respondents agreed that "there are too many social media and networking websites to keep up to date with."

Surprisingly given the proliferation of blogs within the wider business world, and increasingly within the international meetings industry, 83% of respondents still do not regularly follow an industry blog, the survey results showed.

Survey: Incentive travel still rates highly as motivational tool
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