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Employee Travel Incentives: Rewards that Go the Extra Mile

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Smart managers know that employee morale and motivation directly influence productivity, loyalty and profits – no matter what the economy. When it comes to cost-efficiency and perceived value, more and more managers are discovering that nothing covers more ground than travel incentives.

Making Go-Getters Go Places

Historically, travel incentives have been primarily offered by sales-oriented companies such as insurance firms, pharmaceuticals and car dealerships. But now the word’s out: Finding that employees in general consider travel to be one of the most gratifying forms of corporate rewards, employers are now increasingly using travel incentives for Human Resources applications and other non-sales programs to reduce turnover and boost productivity.

"Few employee inducements can match the payoffs and staying power of travel incentives, which is why it’s such a great business investment," says Cathie Fryer. As the President of CTA Travel Management Services, Fryer leads a team of Incentive Planning specialists that has helped organizations of all sizes optimize their incentive programs. "We get orders for a whole spectrum of packages, from quick and inexpensive to elaborate and luxurious," says Fryer.

More for Less

The simple fact is, travel incentives provide much more perceived value for money than actual cash. "A tropical vacation for two that includes airfare, a luxury Caribbean or Alaskan Cruise with exotic ports of call, chilled champagne in the cabin, plus four-star dining has significantly more appeal than an equivalent amount of cash," states "People, Performance and Pay", a joint study by the American Productivity Center and American Compensation Association.

Understandably, not all businesses have the budget or need to offer something of this scale. That’s the beauty of travel incentives, says Fryer. "Travel incentives are a flexible and creative way to motivate employees. Managers can customize incentive travel rewards to the budget and goals of their business." Travel can be awarded in the form of an actual all-expenses-paid trip, or even complimentary accommodation vouchers for major hotel chains. Some cost-conscious firms have even integrated successful point-driven programs, in which employees receive credits for meeting various goals. These accumulated credits become points they can redeem toward a trip purchase or travel gift certificates.

"Many employers like to give the option to upgrade at the employees’ expense, and the employees love it! Imagine a long weekend in Las Vegas with free air travel, car rental – and then being able to upgrade to a gorgeous room at the Bellagio Hotel for less than $100 a night. Now that’s an unbeatable bargain." says Fryer. In some cases, employees even request a downgrade. Rather than take the $10,000 Around-the-World trip for two, a winning employee asked CTA if she could exchange her prize for something else of similar value, and Fryer was more than happy to accommodate the request. The winner ultimately chose a week-long Disney Cruise that she was able to enjoy with her entire family of five. "We at CTA believe in service that goes beyond delivering the customer to the destination and back," she says. "Our goal is to always deliver the results that they truly want, in a way that exceeds expectations."

In an article entitled "Firms Not Trimming Good Incentive Travel Programs," Business First reporter Susan Deutschle revealed that rather than scale back on their travel incentives, many businesses have stood firm and even ramped up their programs. By continuing to motivate and reward employees for increased levels of performance during difficult times, these companies have bragging rights to staff that remain enthusiastic, positive and, best of all, more productive.

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