Trip Trends

From hot destinations to traveller preferences, a look at the latest in incentive travel

By Waheeda Harris

Technology has changed the way we travel. Just like leisure jetsetters, business travellers are eager to share their journeys around the planet via social media and want to have authentic, custom­ized and interactive experiences. Incentive travel has adopted these 21st century must-haves while still reflecting the traditional way Canadians prefer to travel.

A recent study by Development Counsellors International, Capturing the Canadian Consumer, confirms a Canadian preference for established destinations such as Europe and the Caribbean. According to Terry Manion, executive vice-presi­dent of Meridican Incentive Consultants based in Markham, Ont., well-known places never go out of style.

“The Dominican Republic makes sense for plan­ners, such as Cap Cana, which is familiar but also a place that has been diversifying their offerings,” says Manion. The increase in direct flights from Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal continue to make destinations such as Ireland and Scotland attractive options. “We’re able to offer unique expe­riences not easily accessed by individuals visiting Dublin or Edinburgh, such as a group dinner in a castle,” says Manion.

Incentive travel has always been a bucket list item for employees and Manion believes the millennial preference for personal experiences is a welcome change. “It’s the way a lot of peo­ple want to travel.” On a recent trip to Prague, Manion experienced an impromptu violin lesson during a visit to a music venue, while during a trip to Vienna, his group had rare access inside the stables of the Spanish Riding School to see the Lipizzaner stallions.

Dallyce Macas of Platinum DMC Collection, based in Toronto, has seen the resurgence of Beijing and Shanghai for incentive travel, as well as France, Italy, Croatia and Scandinavia. “Norway’s fjords are a definite lure for top sellers, or to go to Svalbard to experience the northern lights,” says Macas.

Incentive planners are also now benefitting from the development of destinations such as Iceland. Macas remembers planning for groups to visit the island nation 15 years ago, when there were limited flights and minimal accom­modation. “Iceland can now be compared to London for flight accessibility and hotel options.”

Macas has seen the shift from traditional options like golf to interactive and immersive activities such as a walking tour of a Marrakesh souk with a chef to buy ingredients for a cooking class. As well, she’s seen how employees now view incentive trips. “Employees aren’t able to gather as a group as often as they have in the past,” explains Macas, “...incentive travel createspeer pressure, but results in the creation of a community that everyone wants to experience.”

Social media is de rigueur for incentive travellers to share their experiences, another subtle way to encourage fellow employees to want to achieve more for their company said Macas. And with the evolution of mobile apps programming and the availability of Wi-Fi, the use of apps is a welcome addition for incentive travellers, added Manion.

Incentive trips haven’t dramatically changed in length from the traditional seven days, but pre- and post- trips are another carrot for employees, said Macas, like offering a trip to Buenos Aires, with a pre or post trip for an elite group to the Mendoza wine region. Families are also a consideration, with many employ­ers offering trip options that can suit recently married employees, those with young children or those with teenagers, says Manion.

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