Didier Scaillet, CEO, SITE on the effectiveness of incentive travel
A perfect storm of global recession and negative perception tossed the Good Ship ‘Incentive’ repeatedly onto the rocks between 2009 and 2014. Many big users of incentive travel simply abandoned ship and, for a few years, avoided all mention of ‘IT’ as if it was a dirty little secret never to be mentioned again.
Of course, the clouds gradually cleared, the sun emerged again and those same companies realised how disengaged they’d become from their people, the very crew they needed in order to put out to high sea again. Gradually Incentive Travel was back on the radar and there was a deeper appreciation of its effectiveness.
In ways, the most effective way to measure the impact of anything you do is to simply stop doing it and evaluate the outcome. That’s what happened with incentive travel. The companies which cancelled their programmes due to recession, or perception, or both, saw clearly and unambivalently the devastating impact that that had on their bottom lines.
Once normal service was resumed from 2014 onwards the clear connection between incentive travel programmes and corporate revenues was proven – not that there should have been any doubt in the first place – and companies re-committed.
But the temporary lacuna for incentive travel also threw up some unexpected discoveries, borne out by recent research conducted by SITE, the Incentive Research Foundation (IRF) and Finance & Insurance Conference Professionals (FICP).
Companies are realising now that incentive travel programmes have an effectiveness BEYOND sales. They’re seeing that the upswing in annual revenues that can be attributed to a well-executed incentive travel programme is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of real and lasting impact.
The Incentive Travel Industry Index (ITII) conducted jointly by SITE and partners reveals a very significant jump in the secondary, ‘soft’ objectives for having an incentive travel programme in the first place.
While financial outcomes are still dominant (‘increase in sales and/or profitability for the overall company’), soft outcomes such as ‘Better relationships between employees and management’ are rising considerably. Overall, objectives supporting positive workplace culture are becoming increasingly important with incentive travel seen as an effective way to deliver upon them.
If, for example, we take the Top 5 objectives as highlighted by the 1,000+ global incentive travel professionals who contributed to the ITII survey, 60% are related to workplace culture:
• Better relationship building between employees and management – 2
• Improved employee engagement / morale – 4
• Better relationship building between employees with each other – 5
while only 40% have a purely financial metric.
This is particularly significant in terms of the previous old chestnut that beset organisers of incentives – can you demonstrate and quantify ROI. By stopping incentive travel – however involuntarily – during the global economic downturn we proved its ROI.
However, we’ve also uncovered a deeper, richer and more enduring effectiveness to incentive travel that naturally builds positive workplace culture, probably the biggest challenge that will face corporations over the next 10 years.