3 Ways to Take Incentive Travel From Transactional to Transformational

As part of a transformation incentive travel experience in New Zealand, three men trek through a dense rainforest with beams of misty light shining down on them.

Skift Take

Today’s incentive travelers want more than just a free trip — they demand deep, meaningful experiences that are good for the planet and food for the soul. Here are three ways incentive destinations can help travelers connect not just with each other but also with their purpose and place in the world.

This content was created collaboratively by Tourism New Zealand and Skift’s branded content studio, SkiftX.

The social dynamic of work environments has changed considerably since the pandemic, even as companies and corporations return to offices and hybrid structures. While employees hunger for interpersonal connection and a sense of purpose, premium incentive travel has grown into a major opportunity to bring people together in meaningful and inspiring ways. But for incentive travel to realize that goal, it has to evolve out of the realm of transactional exchanges into the world of transformational experiences.

According to the 2023 Trends Report from the Incentive Research Foundation (IRF), the most important elements of successful incentive travel include deep human engagement, rich cultural experiences, sustainability initiatives, activities that allow travelers to give back, and feelings of safety and security. New Zealand sets those key elements against the backdrop of breathtaking natural scenery and a spirit of Manaakitanga — a Māori term that means not just hospitality, but a way of life founded on reciprocity. As a destination with a range of bucket-list adventures and cultural activities that can’t be experienced anywhere else, New Zealand helps turn incentive travel into a life-changing experience.

To help identify the best ways to turn those principles of transformation into modern incentive trips for today’s traveler, SkiftX partnered with Tourism New Zealand to produce a new guide: The Evolution of Incentive Travel – From Transactional to Transformative. Pulled from selections of the guide, here are three ways to embody those principles and realize the goals of incentive travel as a catalyst for transformation.

1. Commit to Sustainability

New Zealand paves the way forward for sustainable incentive travel with initiatives spread across every stage. From Air New Zealand’s ambitious carbon-cutting standards outlined in the Fly NZO program to green convention facilities and sustainable sourcing practices to future-facing fuel, New Zealand is well on its way to becoming one of the world’s most sustainable destinations.

2. Give Back to Nature

According to the IRF report, corporate social responsibility (CSR) is one of the most important elements of incentive travel. New Zealand demonstrates how CSR initiatives can be so much more than philanthropy through programs like Trees That Count, which plants a native tree for every delegate on an incentive trip, and various conservation activities and tours designed to celebrate and protect native species of flora and fauna.

3. Engage With Local Culture

Incentive travelers expect to be able to immerse themselves in local culture, from their experiences and activities to their accommodation choices. New Zealand puts authentic engagement within reach through luxury lodges that incorporate traditional Māori cooking, performance arts, crafts like carving and weaving, and more into their everyday programming.

In this report, you’ll find:

  • The importance of lowering the carbon footprint of incentive travel programs
  • How incentive travel programs can prioritize sustainability at every step, from responsible air travel to green venue selection
  • Tips on championing greener energy sources and using incentive travel to leave the natural environment better than you found it
  • Ways to support local regeneration and conservation efforts
  • Best practices for creating meaningful moments of deep interpersonal connection that get incentive travelers out into the world and breaking bread together
  • The benefits of connecting not just with fellow travelers but also with the locals and communities that call a destination “home”
  • Ways to anchor exciting adventure travel with a sense of safety, security, and health

This content was created collaboratively by Tourism New Zealand and Skift’s branded content studio, SkiftX.

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