What is incentive travel? (4 Incentive travel program examples)

Free holidays for your staff—what’s that all about?

Isn’t incentive travel just frivolous corporate spending, used by giant organisations with more money than sense?


Although corporate incentive travel can be expensive and difficult to deliver, it is still one of the most effective ways to motivate individuals, reward desirable behaviour and boost performance.

In this article, you’ll learn everything you need to know about incentive travel and how it can help you reach your company goals.

What is incentive travel?

Incentive travel motivates or incentivises a group of people by rewarding top performers with an all-expenses-paid trip. Organisations can decide to offer the travel perk to individual employees, departments, partners, or VIP clients.

You can use travel incentive programs to achieve your core business objectives like boosting quarterly sales figures, improving the quality of interactions between employees and executives, or nurturing relationships with high-spending or loyal customers. This is done by setting clear and attainable objectives that your target group will strive to achieve in order to win a place on the trip.

So what are some examples of incentive travel programs and what they can achieve?

4 Incentive travel program examples

Incentive travel programs can be used to achieve a variety of desired outcomes from improved employee engagement to client spending incentives. Let’s take a closer look at four possible uses of corporate incentive travel programs.

1. Employee motivation

One of the best ways to overcome organisational challenges such as low productivity, employee turnover and poor customer service is by developing travel incentives for staff. Motivating your employees with attractive travel rewards is an effective strategy for boosting employee engagement, altering attitudes, fostering teamwork, building morale and embedding new company values.

An employee motivation travel program is designed to bring your workforce together and inspire group interaction through an itinerary of teamwork exercises and experiential activities. This isn’t a free holiday, rather, it’s a purposeful team-building retreat with clear desired outcomes.

Example: Your technology scale-up has grown rapidly and you now have a large workforce with employees working remotely across the globe. Daily tasks are running smoothly, but your team isn’t motivated and the company culture is stagnant.

So, you reach out to a third-party retreat planner to help you organise a five-day team-building retreat in Honolulu full of unique team-bonding activities and carefully selected team-building games. The itinerary is specifically designed to strengthen interpersonal relationships and improve communication.

2. Rewards and recognition

Incentive travel can be used to exemplify desirable behaviours and reward top achievers. Actions like bringing in big clients, promoting company values and going the extra mile should be encouraged by offering incentive awards.

Because these trips are offered as a reward or recognition for exemplary behaviour, the itinerary focuses more on pleasure and leisure activities rather than workshops and training events. After all, the idea is to motivate other employees to perform better, not deter them.

Example: You run a successful restaurant franchise and you want to generate more positive online reviews. At the beginning of the year, you announced that the top five servers to have their names mentioned in the most five-star reviews would win a trip to Tuscany, Italy.

The trip sounded fantastic, with relaxing vineyard tours, delicious cuisine and a luxury hotel. Excitement for the trip started to build and soon enough, the five-star reviews started rolling in. 

By the end of the year, five top-performing servers were rewarded with an all-expenses-paid trip to the picturesque region of Tuscany, Italy.

3. Sales incentives

Sales incentive trips work in a similar way to rewards and recognition, but in this case, they’re geared towards more quantifiable corporate objectives such as increased sales and revenue.

Before planning the incentive group travel, you must first establish the requirements for attendance. To drive better sales figures, you should set goals slightly higher than what your employees would typically achieve.

These incentive travel programs are designed to be a reward, so the agenda should be made up of pleasurable activities including relaxing dinners, unique experiences, evening entertainment and free time to explore the destination.

Example: You own a company that sells renewable energy contracts door-to-door. You notice that your sales figures have started to drop and you want to do something to inspire your sales team to up their game.

You consider offering a cash bonus, but quickly decide a once-in-a-lifetime experience is more likely to resonate with the whole team and inspire them to make more sales.

You set new speculative yet attainable sales targets and announce a free employee holiday to Mammoth Lakes, CA, for anybody who achieves them.

The employee incentive travel program successfully motivates your team to push for more sales and your revenue starts to improve.

4. Customer loyalty

Incentive tours can equally be used to cement relationships with loyal and high-paying clients. They sweeten the professional relationship and offer an incentive for the customer to continue doing business with you.

These are usually luxury trips, with plenty of time to relax, explore and enjoy unique experiences.

Example: You own a company that provides catering for corporate events. One of your clients, a major event planner, has been enlisting your services for a long time and you want to give them a reason to continue working with you.

You decide to create an incentive travel program. Each time the event planner books your catering company, they earn points that can later be cashed in for an incentive travel award.

This could be a relaxing spa weekend in Helsinki or a sunny beach holiday in Gran Canaria.

What’s the objective of your incentive travel program?

It’s easy to see why incentive travel is often confused for a free holiday. After all, incentive trips are designed to be desirable and reinforce certain behaviours.

They wouldn't work if the itinerary was full of meetings, product demos and feedback sessions.

So when you’re designing your travel incentive program, consider your desired outcomes. Do you want to encourage your top clients to spend more? Do your new hires need help integrating with the rest of the team? 

Once you have the answers to these questions, you can go about planning a trip with an itinerary that supports your goals.

Surf Office has almost 10 years of experience planning fully customised work retreats for major organisations such as Google, Shopify, Hotjar and more. If you're looking to organise a motivational team-building retreat, we’d be delighted to hear more about it!

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