by Naomi Neoh | January 22, 2019

Incentive industry professionals are finding ways to move the needle on sustainable tourism for incentive programmes. A key strategy? Being ready to pitch every season “not just as a consolation prize” to your clients. (JordiStock/Getty Images)

As global tourism continues to march forward with arrivals reaching the 1.4 billion-mark last year according to the latest UNWTO figures, the fast-moving tourism landscape present many new developments that could be here to stay, particularly for the incentive industry.

Separating factors that will impact the business of incentive travel in the long haul from short-term fads will mean the difference steering between success and failure. At the recent SITE Global Conference, Ken Lyons, director of KL Communications, raised key findings from the Incentive Travel Index for discussion in a room with incentive buyers, destination management companies and national tourism organisations were present. 

Here are key topics and strategies to tackle them: 

Statement 1: Overtourism and sustainability affects destinations selection for incentive travel programmes. 

With climate change and effect of environmental degradable due to tourism dominating headlines last year, sustainability is becoming no longer an option but an obligation for destinations and incentive planners alike.

To address the trend towards sustainable tourism, destinations have and are taking steps to mitigate its impact, whether through drastic shut-downs to rehabilitate entire islands, in the case of Boracay in the Philippines, or to introducing a ban on single-use plastics. 

For incentive planners, seasonality can help to alleviate the impact of tourism across more months of the year. 

One advice raised was to give serious thought into the potential to influence your portfolio of clients on when they plan their incentive trips and, if need be, find ways to move beyond challenges tied to the sales cycle. Be ready to pitch every season "not just as a consolation prize", but to be able to present new options each time to your clients rather than fall back on experiences that are easy or obvious. After all, incentive programme attendees do not want to be one of ten thousand people at a destination. 

Statement 2: CSR forms an integral part of incentive travel programmes. 

With corporate social responsibility becoming an expected, even ubiquitous element in incentive programmes, it can have the opposite intended effect of inspiring tedium when the aim and impact are not communicated clearly to attendees. 

Planners should look to integrate any CSR component with the client's purposes and objectives. An example would be to create a long-term partnership with an organisation that aligns with the organisation's purpose to ensure that CSR programmes can have continuity and create meaningful impact. Ask your client what they want, rather than incorporate CSR components as a way to tick off an item. 

Statement 3: Mobile app for incentive travel programmes are expected as standard.

Planners are finding mobile apps are becoming a huge convenience tool when planning particular programme itineraries, using transport and reservation apps such as Uber and OpenTable. Among planners in the room, creating specific hashtags for meetings and events was a common tool to track how attendees were engaged in the programme throughout the entire duration, a key objective for running incentive programmes.