Recent research from the Incentive Travel Foundation (IRF) 2021 Trends Report states “there will likely be an increase in individual travel awards and small group incentive trips as some travellers may be reluctant to gather in larger groups. Travel gift cards and resort gift cards are being used as rewards, as well as platforms with a variety of options, such as bespoke bookings and certificates for stays that include transport and activities.” In addition, the 2021 Destination White Paper, also by the IRF, reports 84% of participants considered individual incentive travel as “very or extremely motivating.” Nearly two thirds favoured an incentive trip staying in a private unit that is part of a larger resort, or an individual travel experience staying in a private vacation residence with a companion.
These results echo some findings of Creative Group Inc., based in Toronto, with post event surveys. Manon Dicaire, CMP, senior vice- president, business development, Canada, says millennials are driving the desire for individual travel. “Millennials started changing how our post-event surveys were polling,” she says. “They want us to provide more individual experiences of their choice while on an incentive trip—we started noticing this a few years ago.”
Jamie Schwartz is senior director of individual performance strategy, also with Creative Group but based in Chicago. She says, “swapping out a group for an individual travel package skews younger—they want more autonomy to choose where they want to go. The pandemic presented an opportunity to amplify something we were already doing, to add on to our existing offerings.”
Most incentive travel concentrates on the top 20% of high-sales achievers. Schwartz believes individual travel has even more potential to motivate the next tier of sales people. “Making a 5% shift in the middle sales tier can increase revenue up to 70%. Giving them a taste for individual travel could really make an impact.”
And making an impact is what Creative Group did do, in terms of winning a Society for Incentive Travel Excellence (SITE) Crystal Award in 2020. The award recognized Creative Group for its lightning-fast response to convert a 600-person incentive trip to individual trips for top-tier winners.
Domestically, Creative Group has been busy creating hundreds of individual travel trips for Canadian incentive winners. “We don’t know to what degree individual travel will go,” says Dicaire, “it doesn’t replace an existing program, it will trigger an additional offering. When needed, we utilize long-term partners to assist with travel redemption or work with our parent company—Direct Travel—to act as a travel concierge for travel redemption. Package offerings are pre- designed and participants have up to three years to redeem them.” Dicaire notes the overwhelming desire for Canadians, so far, is individual incentive travel to Hawaii, once the border to the US reopens.