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Ready? Set? Plan! A Checklist for Incentive Travel Success

Couple who earned an incentive travel trip

Incentive travel programs are taking off among companies, big and small. Throughout our four-part blog series, we’ve explored the powerful potential of incentive travel to reward and motivate hard-working employees, as well as top customers and referral partners.

We also took an in-depth look at the growing appeal of incentive travel programs, especially for younger generations seeking new experiences. Plus, we shared some of our all-time favorite “wow moments” from incentive trips we’ve designed.

What’s left? Expert advice on how to design and execute an incentive travel program that delivers maximum results for your business.

1. Define the results you wish to accomplish.

Before you start brainstorming amazing potential destinations, think through the business results you’re looking to achieve. Get specific about how you will define the success of your incentive program.

At Cruise Dreams, we’ve planned incentive travel to fit a wide range of objectives. Is the primary purpose to reward and recognize a group of employees or vendors? Are you looking to create an incentive structure with a set of qualifying criteria people need to meet to earn the trip? Do you want to build in a business planning or sales meeting? What about team building or corporate social responsibility goals?

Once you’ve outlined what you want to achieve through the incentive travel program, think about how you’ll gauge success after you’ve returned home. For example, if the focus is on motivating employee performance, what metrics can you track around productivity, new sales, or customer satisfaction? Or, if the intent is to strengthen relationships among key referral partners or vendors, what do you expect in terms of activity after the trip?

Getting specific upfront is the secret to creating an incentive program that delivers a positive business impact and a solid return on your investment.

2. Crunch the numbers.

The next thing to define is how much you want to spend. It’s important to determine the budget before you get too far into the planning process so that you stay on track from the very beginning.

There’s a myth out there that incentive travel programs require a lot of money. Thirty years of travel experience has proven to me over and over that unique experiences can be accomplished on all budgets. At Cruise Dreams, we’ve helped a wide range of clients achieve their travel incentive goals, from ultra high-end to the more modest programs. No matter what the budget, we specialize in delivering the WOW factor, every single time.

The best advice for setting your budget is to figure out the amount you want to spend per person. You can go at it from two directions. If you have a set pool of money, the budget per person will help you determine how many travelers you can include. Or, if you have a set number of people in your group, you can design your travel in line with your per person budget.

3. Get logistical.

Planning and budgeting for an incentive travel trip

With your overall objectives set and your budget defined, it’s time to get down to planning. Ideally, you’ll want to allow at least six to 18 months lead time before your departure date. Depending on the complexity of the trip and the timeline for qualifying, planning can start as early as 24 months in advance.

This is when you need to do some thoughtful calendar management. What’s the best time of year for the trip, based on your objectives as well as your business cycle? To make sure attendees are truly able to relax, you won’t want your travel timing to be too close to either the start or end of your company’s busy seasons.

And if finding a good time for a large group of key employees to get away is impossible, consider designing an incentive program around individual travel rewards that give recipients the ability to travel on their own while still accomplishing your business objectives.

4. Pick your partner.

Most companies today find it costly to employ an in-house team with capacity in their daily workloads to plan and execute an incentive travel program end-to-end. Instead, they choose to partner with experts in incentive and group travel. Not only is the approach more practical in terms of resources, it’s also a better value. Incentive travel specialists like Cruise Dreams are able to provide preferred pricing that’s significantly better than what an in-house team would be able to negotiate on their own. As leaders in group and incentive travel, Cruise Dreams has designed a full-service model that takes the burden off your team’s plate.

Here’s how it works:

Travel team

We’ll kick off with a planning meeting to talk through your objectives, budget, wish list, and ideas. Then, we’ll take all of your input, do the research, and negotiate with vendors to add amazing value and extra amenities. We’ll propose two or three trip options guaranteed to accomplish your goals and deliver the wow. Once you’ve chosen your option, we’ll get to work behind the scenes handling all the details.

Our in-house team collaborates with you from planning through the trip itself, getting to know you, your group, and your individualized needs. We don’t outsource any part of your program. A member of the Cruise Dreams team is with you every step of the way. That means we handle all of the planning, including itinerary development, amenities, price negotiations, and marketing – and we do not charge you extra management fees.

We also provide a complimentary website, customized for your group. This gives you an easy and effective way to promote the trip, share up-to-the-minute travel information, provide online registration options for activities and excursions, and more. You’ll also have the ability to send email blast messages to keep the group informed and generate excitement.

When it’s time to travel, we want your trip to be worry-free. A member of our team – who’s familiar with you, your group, and your incentive goals – will be onsite throughout your journey. That way, we can anticipate and handle every detail. For example, we oversee all activities, events, and meetings. And, we’ll provide a dedicated onsite hospitality desk throughout the trip, so your travelers have easy access to our staff for questions or needs that arise.

5. Enjoy!

All that’s left for you to do is relax, enjoy this one-of-a-kind travel experience, and make lasting memories. You’ll return to work rested, rejuvenated, and ready to reap the results of a successful incentive travel program.

When you’re ready to design an incentive travel program for your business, make Cruise Dreams a part of the team. From imagining the possibilities through delivering the WOW factor for each and every member of your travel group, we’ll help you deliver an incentive Trip of a Lifetime.

Call us at (877) 999-4533 or email us at to plan your company’s incentive trip.

Waves to you and smooth sailings ahead!

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