Reward programmes are still an effective way to motivate and retain staff. However, the incentives need to be right to provide the best kind of motivation. Interestingly, non-cash rewards – such as incentive travel – often deliver greater returns than cash rewards. (Read the Incentive Research Foundations article on this here.) This is because experiences usually have greater value attached to them than the actual cost, are more likely to lead to lasting positive memories, can be spoken about to colleagues and friends (leading to greater social recognition for the reward), and are perceived as more personal (and less transactional than cash) – which helps to build relationships between staff and loyalty towards the company.

So how can you derive the maximum benefits from your incentive travel programme? Given that the appeal of incentive travel lies in perceived value, experiences and social engagement, these are the aspects that you should try to cater for.

Unique destinations

Beautiful Instagram photos of remote and unusual destinations have no doubt fuelled the desire for travel to unique locations. Besides, it feels like more of an adventure when you are going “off the beaten track”.

Luckily for us, South Africa meets this criteria for international and local travellers alike, with Cape Town often appearing on the top 10 destination lists for international incentives and numerous hidden gems (take your pick of beaches, mountains and wildlife) catering to our local market.

Be authentic

Much of the appeal of going somewhere novel is to learn about the destination and get to experience new cultures, cuisines and activities. Here the emphasis is on authenticity – of having experiences that are ‘true’ to a place, and which you wouldn’t be able to have anywhere else.

Of course, this is easier said than done. Jeremy Smith of WTM said, “If there was a First Rule of Authenticity, it would be: You cannot create Authenticity… If there was a Second Rule of Authenticity for 2016, it would be: You do not talk about being authentic. At least not if you actually are.”

But generally advice to give people a “more authentic” experience includes: allow delegates to learn about the good and bad things about a place (in South Africa you could include township tours instead of trying to gloss over the fact that many South Africans live in poverty); give your delegates the opportunity to engage with local tour operators, artisans, entertainers and people; and allow breathing space within the programme so that there is room for spontaneity and for experiences to sink in.

Make it experiential

Lastly, don’t limit your delegates’ experiences to simply seeing a place, eating the food and listening to the music. Give them the chance to do things, to engage with the people and the place through activities rather than simply being passive observers. These experiences will form the basis of their memories of the trip, and will be the things they recount with emotion and passion when they get home. After all, experiences are far more personally meaningful than traditional sight-seeing.

As a side note – activities where delegates feel they are giving back to a local community tend to create some of the most powerful memories and feel-good moments, so these are still a hugely popular addition to an incentive travel package.

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