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How does incentive travel improve ROI?

What is an incentive travel program?

In the most simplistic sense, incentive travel aims to boost employee engagement and incentivise employees with a holiday or trip that is covered by the company. Typically, incentive travel is a blend of leisure and professional development. According to a study by Site International Foundation, over 96% of employees stated that they were motivated by incentive travel. Incentive travel helps to motivate and inspire employees to reach targeted business goals. Moreover, it can provide a myriad of other benefits, while offering long-term ROI for your company.

An temple in a valley in Bhutan.

Here are 4 benefits of incentive travel programs and why you should be utilising their potential.

1) Employees feel valued, therefore employee retention is higher

Top employees that are rewarded for their hard work feel more appreciated, which not only serves as positive reinforcement for the great work they are doing but moreover increases employee retention.

79% of people who quit their jobs cited feeling “undervalued and under-appreciated” as a key reason for leaving. The average cost per hire is around £4,000 and up to £18,000, therefore, investing in employee retention not only makes financial sense but moreover enhances satisfaction and happiness within the workplace. Indeed, a report from Society for Human Resources Management stated that companies with “strategic recognition programs”, including incentive travel, have “significant advantages in engagement, retention and performance”.

2) Improves employee well-being and health

We already know that stress can have a detrimental impact on one’s health but by how much? 68% of people surveyed stated that their cause of stress was primarily due to work-related issues. 6% of employees did not take any annual leave last year, and 48% did not take any sick time off, most commonly due to the perceived missed workload and subsequent stress levels. Employees should not be living in fear of further stress, and we should be finding and offering solutions to alleviate stress and improve health and well-being.

That said, there is often a misconception about rest and holiday, with many believing that it requires at least a week off to fully recover and de-stress. New research from the Journal of Environmental research has shown that as little as one single night away from one’s normal environment, has a large, positive and immediate effect on perceived stress, strain and well-being. The effect of this short holiday could still be detected 30 and 45 days later after the time off. This means that even a short break from routine through incentive travel programs can provide employees with much-needed rest and recovery so they can approach work with a refreshed mindset, renewed sense of purpose and overall happier individuals.

A group of people looking over a sunrise.

3) Caters to generational shifts in value

With more millennials and generation Z’s representing a significant proportion of the UK’s workforce, there have been significant shifts in what employees value. The Incentive Marketing Association found that 65% of employees preferred non-cash incentives, which is significantly more than a decade ago. Despite this shift, only 37% of organisations in the UK agree that their reward programs consider multi-generational needs.

Among younger generations, there has been a trend in realising that while money is fleeting, experiences have a more permanent and profound impact. Over 70% of employees surveyed in 2018 agreed that they remembered incentive travel and rewards over cash programs. Incentive travel creates long-lasting memories, bonds team members together and provides the opportunity for lower-level employees to bond with executives that they may not perceive as approachable in a typical workplace environment.

4) The ‘reciprocity effect’

In addition, incentive travel has been linked to the term ‘reciprocity effect’. Professor Khim Kelly coined this term after completing his 2017 experiment, which found that cash rewards tend to be viewed as transactional whereas non-transaction rewards such as incentive travel, appear more personal and sociable. According to his research “non-cash rewards trigger appreciation, leading to a greater desire to reciprocate the gift”, this is because it is believed that more thought has gone into choosing the specific gift, or in this case the specific travel incentive to motivate the employee.

This has shown to increase potential performance gains from mid-level employees (roughly 80% of a company) and is likely more significant than the top 10% of performers. In addition, organisations that provide non-cash rewards have revenue increases three times the average. Therefore, when corporations usefully shift these mid-level performers towards higher rather than lower performance and prioritise non-cash incentives, incremental productivity delivers ROI.

A boat cruising through a limestone canyon


Incentive travel has been shown to motivate, boost engagement, and experience and incentivise employees to meet specific company goals or aims. It enhances employee satisfaction, and by extension increases retention, decreasing cost per hire, as well as fosters an environment for team building, positive well-being and new experiences through the notion of the ‘reciprocity effect’. Fundamentally, the more you give back to your employees the more time, energy and commitment they invest in the company's vision and future.

As a result, incentive travel has been shown to significantly improve ROI, which is why companies that have non-cash rewards and experiences, such as incentive travel, have 3x higher revenue increases.

Zentive Agency

Here at Zentive, we work closely with you to ensure you deliver a highly valued and sustainable incentive program through the location you select to the suppliers we work with, to ensure you are leaving a positive impact on the planet.

Check out our sustainable incentive travel page to find out more, and get in touch with us to discuss your next sustainable event!


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