What's next, you ask? Here's my incentive travel forecast for the new millennium (or at least for the next decade), with my predictions for how employees will want to be rewarded, where winners will want to go, and what they will want to do when they get there.
Cash Will Not Be King A recent study by the Incentive Federation, an alliance of incentive associations and suppliers, concluded that only 26 percent of American businesses use noncash incentives. That statistic will increase dramatically in the next few years. Fueled by an urgency to win employee and customer loyalty, I predict that 80 percent of businesses will use incentives by 2005, as a sizzling economy spawns businesses--and competition--never dreamed of a few years ago. Corporate America will wake up to the obvious: Cash is not the best motivator. Witness how the world is crazed by mileage loyalty programs!
Electronic Incentives Will Boom Internet-based incentive programs are growing exponentially. Today, most of these programs are aimed at creating consumer loyalty for portal sites and Fortune 500 e-businesses. But the big market is in employee, business-to-business, and distribution channel incentives. In 1999, less than 15 percent of corporate incentive programs used the Internet. I predict that three years from now, 85 percent will incorporate the Internet for promotion, administration, and redemption activities. Are you ready?
And the Winner Will Be . . . Travel Every study ever done on incentives has concluded that travel is the most effective tool for motivating performance. While some see travel losing ground to alternative awards such as merchandise, gift certificates, and debit cards, I don't see a real shift. These programs are growing because incentives are growing. But as point- and mileage-based programs continue to gain in popularity, people will delay cashing in as they accumulate points to redeem for travel.
"Undiscovered" Lands Will Be Found Led by the world's major hotel companies, tourism professionals are scrambling to open up the hinterlands. Here are five destinations that will soon be hot.
Moscow and St. Petersburg, Russia. North Americans are still fearful about visiting. All we hear about is organized crime, shabby hotels, and dreary weather. Not so, say the people who know.
Sharm el Sheik, Egypt. Ever consider world-class snorkeling in the Red Sea? Coming to you soon.
The Galapagos Islands. Specially fitted ships now make it possible to explore the unique ecosystems of these Atlantic islands.
Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Dubai will appeal to travelers who have "been there, done that" and want to explore, but who also want deluxe pampering.
Molokai, Hawaii. Once a sleepy island, Molokai now offers either traditional luxury or "tentalows," elegant tents wtih all the amenities of a guest room.
Not Your Father's Incentive The traditional incentive participant is white, male, over 45, well-traveled, with a relatively high income. But demographics are changing dramatically, and to keep pace, I expect drastic changes in the classic incentive experience. Future qualifiers will expect us to address their unique interests. Consumer trends in adventure travel, ecotourism, and volunteerism will push incentive designers to get creative. Domestic programs will be more experiential, featuring adventure, physical activity, and thrills. (Pay up that liability insurance!) International travel will include more remote locales. Attendees won't want to be tourists as much as explorers.