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a hammock in front of chairs that sit next to the beach in Mexico, a favorite location for incentive trips
Katie MoserMar 7, 2023 4:18:00 PM5 min read

Incentive Travel Programs: How to Get Buy-In from Senior Management

Convincing Senior Management to Spend Extra Money on a “Vacation”? Good Luck.

So you’ve decided an incentive program would be a great motivator for your team.

But the dollar signs and logistics are starting to stress you out. You start thinking, “senior management is never going to go for this.”

Introducing a new program, or even continuing an incentive program from 2019, is a difficult sell when companies are starting to tighten their belts.

But incentive programs can be highly beneficial to companies, especially those looking to retain their top performers. Making sure senior management understands this is key.

Securing support from senior management is vital to ensuring the success of your incentive program. This article will cover the key ways to get buy-in from that team.

1. Define the “Why” of Incentive Travel

When presenting a plan to any senior management team, it’s important to clearly explain why you’re bringing this new initiative to the table.

Why our teams? Why now? And why incentive travel?

This is a good time to provide some stats about retention rates, the challenges in the market, and the benefits of incentive travel.

Incentive trips can be extremely effective ways to motivate and inspire teams, even more so than cash rewards. Individuals that want to attend incentive trips will be more motivated to work hard throughout the year to hit their numbers, which in turn helps business.

Plus incentive trips are an excellent way to say thank you to top performers, give them a chance to relax, and hopefully in turn encourage them to continue with your company into the future.

Determine why it’s important to consider incentive travel for your company this year. Is it because you need to hit better revenue? Or because you’re worried about losing top performers? Maybe there’s a need for greater team bonding or connection with executives?

Whatever the reason, make sure you have clear examples, with numbers, numbers, numbers.

2. Define the “What” of Your Incentive Program

Next, it’s important to give context about what exactly your incentive program will look like.

Will it be a 5-day excursion to Bali or a 3-day VIP trip to Hawaii?

It’s important here to highlight that this is more than just a vacation. An incentive trip has a very specific purpose to reinforce your brand messaging, connect your employees, and motivate your teams.

Include your main goals for the event. Whether it’s simply to celebrate your high earners or a more complex goal, it’s important for leadership to understand the purpose of the event.

Sample itineraries are also helpful here. Give them an idea of what types of activities will be included. Will there be motivational speakers, cultural tours, adventure activities? How will they tie into your overall goals for the event?

Make sure to cover the important points here without going into too much detail. Keep the team focused on the key points so they don’t get caught up in whether people would like golf versus spa days.

3. Define the “Who” of Your Incentive Trip

Who should attend your incentive trip?

This is an important point to share with your executive team. Is it the entire company? Top performers from each department? Select departments like the sales team?

Help the team wrap their brain around how many people will be attending and which employees. Again, make sure this ties into your goals for the program.

This will also help you craft messaging around your program and the criteria for participation.

4. Define the “How” of Your Incentive Program

Now that you know the why, what, and who, now it’s time to outline the how.

This is of course one of the trickiest portions of the planning process.

You’ll need to answer questions like:

  • How many months do we need to plan?
  • Who do we need involved? Should it be internal teams or do we need external help like a travel or events agency?
  • Who owns this project?
  • How do we communicate this program with the team?
  • How do we set up criteria for participation?
  • How do we book hotels, flights, activities, gifts, and more?
  • How do we outline the agenda?

Make sure you look at the planning process from as many angles as possible. Think about every detail and how you’re going to manage each one.

Senior management will want to know who is taking charge of the event, especially if you’re leveraging an external agency to plan the event.

We encourage our clients to build visual timelines for the planning process so they can share that with senior management. Showing you have everything mapped out will instill confidence that you’re ready to plan a complex event like this.

5. Provide a Cost Analysis + Return on Investment

How much is this going to cost?

If your senior management is anything like the ones we know, this will be one of the first questions they ask.

Incentive trips are expensive. But the return on investment can be great.

One of the ways to show ROI for an event like this is to show that if you have a certain number of people qualify to participate, how much that might increase sales. For instance, currently, you have only 3 salespeople hitting their targets per year, but with the incentive trip, that motivates employees and now 5 people are hitting their targets. How much would that increase sales from their current status?

You can also show numbers around employee turnover, and how much retention will save the company in the long term, versus the cost of the trip.

It’s worth investing in your top employees so they are willing to stay and perform at your company. Though the initial price tag of an incentive trip can give senior leadership pause, in the long run the incentive program can be extremely valuable.

To make your incentive program valuable, you’ll need to ensure it’s a success. Here’s our guide to creating a successful incentive trip.

6. Ask for Stakeholder Engagement

The last part of getting senior leadership onboard with your incentive program plans is to ask for their involvement.

Maybe it’s having their opinion on the criteria for the incentive program. Or having them actually participate in the program itself by attending alongside top performers.

Make sure they feel that they have a stake in the program and want it to succeed. Keep them involved with consistent communication throughout the planning process, and have them host pre-trip meetings with attendees to get them excited.

Let’s Plan Your Incentive Trip

Getting buy-in from senior leadership can often be the most difficult part of planning an incentive trip. But with the right approach, thoughtful planning, and LOTS of numbers, your incentive trip can become reality.

Already have approval from senior leadership but now not sure where to begin planning? GoGather offers full-service incentive travel management, from site sourcing to agenda planning and beyond. Let’s chat about your upcoming trip and see how we can help make your program successful.

Group of attendees enjoying dinner with title 'Plan Your Next Incentive Trip with GoGather'


Katie Moser

Katie Moser is the Director of Marketing and Business Development at GoGather. She has an extensive background in creating content and branding for events, working with speakers, and managing agendas for conferences. When she's not updating blog posts and sending out social media posts, she helps clients identify areas of opportunity for their events from branding to communications. In her downtime, she enjoys spending time at one of the many beautiful San Diego beaches, exploring new breweries, or chilling at home with her cat.