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Incentive travel in a pandemic? Where there’s a will…

For so many reasons, incentive group travel is simply not an option at the moment. In fact, international group travel may well not return to previous levels until a vaccine or similar is developed and made widely available.

However, that hasn’t stopped the need to continue recognising and rewarding outstanding employees. And with every locked down day that passes, there is an ever-increasing demand for travel out there.

So what can you do to reward staff? I heard tell of one corporate that made the decision to hand out cash rewards instead of an incentive travel programme – and received terrible feedback from staff. People are beginning to anticipate and crave travel.

And the market has responded accordingly. In the last few weeks new gift voucher schemes have emerged that enable corporates to deliver incentive programmes to staff – individually.

For example, Iconic Luxury Hotels, the portfolio that includes Cliveden and Chewton Glen, has just launched Iconic Experiences. Each Iconic Experience includes a stay at one of the portfolio’s five UK luxury hotels, paired with a unique and dynamic ‘experience’ exclusive to each property.

ILH’s MICE sales director Lisa Lernoux-Dock says: “People today are motivated by authentic experiences with a real sense of adventure. Not just an aspirational trip but an unforgettable memory with opportunities to capture the best moments to share on their phones.

“Whilst your team is a unified force everyone is still an individual and is looking for something different. With that individuality in mind Iconic Experiences offers a variety of options so participants can customise their experience, and by including their spouse or partner, you will be reinforcing how much they mean to your company.”

Aware that larger-scale overseas incentive trips may not be feasible for lots of companies right now,Sandals and Beaches Resorts has also revealed a new e-Gift Card for luxury incentive experiences. Available in multiple denominations from £1,000 to £5,000, the new e-Gift Cards can be redeemed against holidays to any of the 18 different Sandals and Beaches resorts, giving corporate businesses the flexibility to choose which resort to book, whether to part-pay for a customer or employee trip, or to pay for a trip in full if they wish to.

Paul Tidy, groups & MICE manager, says: “We know how vital it is to ensure loyalty is at the core of a business, motivate teams to go the extra mile and drive sales, particularly as we navigate through these uncertain times. We appreciate that larger incentive trips may not be possible for many companies just now, so we wanted to create a useful tool which can be easily used in the interim period to incentivise and reward both staff and customers, with a truly memorable experience.”

And it’s not just venues getting in on the act. Event management agency Eventful has teamed up with a selection of luxury hotels, including Gleneagles, Belmond Cadogan Hotel, Coworth Park and Grantley Hall, to launch Eventful Experiences.

Corporate clients can buy gift certificates through Eventful that incentive winners use to enjoy a luxury experience at any of the participating hotels with their partner, friend, family, or even in small groups with colleagues (subject to government guidelines).

MD Caroline Lumgair says: “Travel restrictions, quarantines and social distancing have made traditional incentive travel experiences difficult to implement. Yet motivating and rewarding employees is more important than ever during these challenging times.”

While it remains to be seen what the take-up for these gift voucher schemes will be, it’s pretty clear that the market thinks it has found a way for incentives and rewards to take place.