Slow pace, short-haul agendas are redefining incentives

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Incentive travel is back on the cards following a pandemic-enforced hiatus. Holly Patrick chats to Eventful’s head of incentives, Holly Mills, about the landscape of incentive travel, or as she puts it ‘motivational travel’.

Fresh off the back of her first incentive trip since the start of the pandemic, Mills is keen to share the changes she’s witnessed in the industry and the trends that are going to shape the future of incentives, starting with ditching the word incentive.

“We should start calling it motivational travel. Sometimes, incentive travel just sounds a little bit old school. Motivational travel just feels more relevant,” explained Mills.

Incentive travel has always been about spurring on a workforce, encouraging partners, and saying well done for your efforts, and that foundation hasn’t changed in the pandemic. According to Mills, people were more appreciative than ever to be on the trip.

“I was encouraged to see how much more appreciative people were on the trip. It was incredible, it was a real bonding experience. They were all particularly proud of themselves for achieving what they had in order to get that space on the trip. It made the whole experience a lot more heightened.”

Despite the resounding success of the incentive programme, Mills explained that staff shortages were noticeable, a challenge plaguing the events and hospitality industry.

“Stansted Airport was the busiest I've ever seen it and I believe that's down to staff shortages and that’s happening across the industry, across the whole world.

“We were expecting just to jump back into action with a seamless flight process, seamless check-in, but all areas of the industry are still struggling with staffing as many people have had to leave the industry altogether. We need to change our mindset from thinking this industry, which has been devastated over the last two years, can just get right back to it- we need to be more patient."

Mills suspects short-haul incentive programmes are coming into favour anyway. While she remains convinced that tried and tested long-haul programmes will always be an option, she’s seeing an uptake of short-haul options that have been thrown into the mix to provide more choice.

“What COVID taught us all is that there are amazing places and amazing activities locally. We don't have to go to the most far-flung place to discover that. In the past, it has been normalised to travel long haul for a short programme and that doesn’t give anyone enough time to unwind and relax.

“People’s pace of life has changed and incentive programmes need to reflect that."

Holly Patrick
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Holly Patrick
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A desire to travel led Holly Patrick to the business meetings and events world and she’s never looked back. Holly takes a particular interest in event sustainability and creating a diverse and inclusive industry. When she’s not working, she can be found rolling skating along Brighton seafront listening to an eclectic playlist, featuring the likes of Patti Smith, Sean Paul, and Arooj Aftab.

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