Incentive Travel: It’s time to Re-engineer the Sales Incentive Trip

Incentive Travel: Building a Better Sales Incentive Trip

I have made no secret about the fact that I feel the traditional way of approaching incentive travel is flawed. I have previously expressed my concerns:

Recent Fallout in the Incentive Travel Industry

The economic crisis and its aftermath are the perfect opportunity for companies to re-think and re-engineer their incentive travel initiatives. With a bit of creativity and by adding another day to your itinerary, it is possible to make sales incentive trips more meaningful.

Some of the companies that were severely criticized by the media for excessive spending on incentive travel would have fared better if their itinerary had been more balanced. By all means stay at a beautiful resort and building in some R & R. Your team has worked hard and they have earned it. Rather than making incentive travel all about pampering and self-indulgence, use your incentive trip to also:


  • give back to the community
  • develop your team
  • learn more about the places from where you obtain your supplies and the people to whom you sell your products

The Shape of the New Sales Incentive Trip

Some companies have already discovered there is a better way to build a foreign or local corporate incentive programme. So, what do re-engineered sales incentive trips look like?

Here are some experiences that you can build into your incentive trips to expose your team to the local culture and history of your incentive travel destination:

Give Back to the Community

Give your team an opportunity to become involved in a charity event or projects to give back to the community. Some of these examples would be the perfect focus of a team building activity in preparation for your trip. You could involve your entire team, not just the top performers who will be making the trip.

  • Raising funds to purchase computers, books and other school supplies and delivering them to a local school
  • Raising funds and purchasing shoes to be distributed at schools in low income areas
  • Sewing school uniforms and delivering them to local families
  • A cooking event to provide food for homeless people or low income families
  • Toy assembly
  • Painting and repairs of schools, homes, and community facilities
  • Construction projects
  • Funding and building a park
  • Raising funds for a one day dental or eye clinic
  • Book drives for a local library
  • Planting or harvesting crops
  • Digging a well

  • Sharing a meal and some activities with a local family and their neighbours
  • Raising funds for emergency shelter kits and delivering them
  • Involving your company in shoebox assembly and having your top performers help distribute them during their incentive trip

If employees are allowed to bring their entire family with them on your sales incentive trip, here is some inspiration from what a visitor to Jamaica did with her family during a Spring break vacation:

Pick up New Strategies & Ideas to Help you Improve Your Business

Then, consider adding the following elements to your incentive trips.

  1. Business Team Building Simulations (you may as well take advantage of the fact that you have the team together
  2. Scouting trips to uncover best practices in other companies from your industry and with respect to product lines and services
  3. Visits and tours of the offices and factories of your foreign suppliers, subsidiaries and branches
  4. Factory and service tours
  5. Reconnaissance missions to local shopping centres to spot emerging technology and produce innovations so that your company can stay “ahead of the curve”

A race style event can help you add the fun factor to your incentive travel itinerary and incorporate elements 3 – 6.

About Reconnaissance Missions: I was exposed to the following products and services during trips to Asia LONG before they were introduced in North America

  • USB Drives (Malaysia)
  • Jumbotron Billboards on City Streets (Malaysia & Singapore)
  • Internet Cafes (Singapore)
  • Vending Machines on Street Corners for Just about Any Product (Japan)
  • Games on Cell Phones (Japan)
  • Nail, Manicure, and Pedicure Salons (Malaysia)
  • Reflexology Studios (Malaysia)
  • Upscale Massage Parlours in Shopping Malls (Singapore)

How to Fit it All in

Here is are some possible itineraries for pulling it all together:

Option 1: Incentive Travel with Business Field Trip & Community Project (3 Nights)

  • Day 1: AM Early Arrival, Group Check-in, Luggage Transfer to Room, City Tour (Before it’s too Hot), Lunch, Free Time, Afternoon Tea, Orientation, Free Time, Late Dinner
  • Day 2: AM Free Time
  • Day 2: PM Visit to Cultural or Historical Site, Free Time, Themed Cultural Dinner & Entertainment
  • Day 3: Charity Event or Involvement in Community Project
  • Day 4: AM Choice of Free Time or Optional Recreational Activities
  • Day 4: PM Field Trip (Factory/Service Centre Tour or Visit to Local Company in Industry), Gala, Late Night Departure

Option 2: Incentive Travel with Team Building (4 Nights)

  • Day 1: AM Early Arrival, Group Check-in, Luggage Transfer to Room, City Tour (Before it’s too Hot), Lunch, Free Time, Afternoon Tea, Orientation, Free Time, Late Dinner
  • Day 2: AM Free Time
  • Day 2: PM Visit to Cultural or Historical Site, Free Time, Themed Cultural Dinner & Entertainment
  • Day 3: Business Team Building Simulation
  • Day 4: Business Team Building Simulation
  • Day 5: AM Choice of Free Time or Optional Recreational Activities
  • Day 5: PM Shopping, Late Departure

Quick Tip: Companies can fit an extra 2 days of activities into incentive trips and build in enough time for relexation without exploding their budgets. How? Merely arramge to arrive early in the morning on the first day and leave late on the last day.

For Your Next Sales Incentive Trip

Rather than shelving your incentive travel programme, why not “think outside the box” and re-engineer it. If your budget is down, have your sales incentive trip closer to home or substitute with a corporate event. If you’re having a good year, grab some of the bargains that are still available at many hotels and resorts due to the economy.

By locking in your plans for 2010 – 2012, you can take advantage of the generous attrition clauses that many hotels are now offering.

Finally and most important of all, leave the resort, discover what is unique about the history and culture of each destination and provide your team with an opportunity to give back to the community.

Examples of Team Building that Combines Giving back to the Community with Picking up new Business Strategies

Real Business Cases:

Your team will benefit from this change that is long overdue. Your company could gain positive media coverage rather than risking criticism through a more traditional approach to incentive travel. You’ll also give your team the opportunity to finally enjoy the benefits that travel has to offer.

Anne Thornley-Brown is the President of Toronto based Executive Oasis International, a business consulting firm that helps organizations succeed even in the midst of turbulence. They offer incentive travel in a number of featured destinations including Canada, Jamaica, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Oman, Egypt, Singapore, Japan, and Malaysia


7 thoughts on “Incentive Travel: It’s time to Re-engineer the Sales Incentive Trip

  1. Great article! Voluntourism is really on the rise. Having employees give back to the communities in which they are staying is a fantastic way to work the company’s mission into an incentive trip. In addition to some pampering and relaxation, they can learn about other cultures and help out those in need.

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