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two people relaxing at a pool with an ocean view at an incentive trip
Katie MoserFeb 22, 2023 12:28:02 PM4 min read

Incentive Travel Programs vs. Traditional Rewards: Which is Better?

Incentive Travel Programs vs. Traditional Rewards: Which is Better?

Is incentive travel the right choice for your team?

Many companies opt for more traditional rewards for their high performing employees, such as bonuses, to incentivize. These rewards offer employees the flexibility to use the money as they want.

But are these cash incentives the right choice for your team? Are they creating the kind of retention and motivation that you want for your business?

Choosing the right employee reward program is vital for company success. A competitive labor market coupled with an uncertain economic outlook means employee retention and motivation are critical for companies to focus on. Understanding your employees' needs and interests will help you choose the right path.

This article will help you understand the benefits and drawbacks of incentive travel programs versus traditional rewards programs so you can make the right choice for your team.

Incentive Travel Programs: A Unique Opportunity

With remote work and global collaboration continuing to permeate much of the workforce, employee engagement is more important than ever. Incentive trips offer the opportunity to bring dispersed teams together to bond and reinforce your company culture.

Benefits of Incentive Trips

Employee Connection

Employee engagement is a key to retention. Incentive trips offer an environment that brings teams together in a way that traditional rewards simply can’t, including:

  • Connecting executives with top performing employees
  • Reinforcing company loyalty, messaging and initiatives
  • Connecting top-performing employees in a way they may not get the opportunity otherwise - to share successes and strategies

Plus, top performers create top performers. Being in a high-achieving environment can often inspire even higher performance.

Learn more about the benefits of incentive travel.

Employee Motivation

Incentive trips create memorable experiences that are talked about for years to come. Your company has the opportunity to spoil your top-performers with unique travel experiences, gifts, and five-star cuisine. These luxury and unique experiences are things that employees will look forward to, work hard to achieve, and brag about after.

This sharing aspect of incentive trips is key. Check out the “Presidents Club” or “incentive trip” hashtags on LinkedIn to see just how much people want to share their successes in this tangible way. 

Not only will employees want to share their trip experience, the simple act of sharing will encourage others to perform higher so they can also attend the trip in upcoming years.

Competitive Advantage

Incentive trips are also increasing in popularity. According to a study by the Incentive Research Foundation, more than 50% of survey participants expect incentive trip participation to increase more or significantly more by 2024. With more companies looking at incentive travel, offering these trips becomes a competitive advantage in the market and a vital way to find and retain top talent.

Inspiring your team includes taking them to amazing locations. Here's how to source the right destination for your incentive trip.

Incentive Trip Drawbacks

However, incentive trips don’t come without their drawbacks. Some employees may want the flexibility offered by cash rewards to achieve something on their goal list, like buying a house or paying for the kids’ college education. Additionally, incentive trips come with major logistical and budget considerations. It’s important to weigh these drawbacks as you craft your reward program.

Ready to plan your incentive trip? Here are our top tips to make it successful.

Traditional Rewards: Flexibility and Ease

Cash Reward Benefits

We won’t deny it: cash rewards equal flexibility. Plus, they’re extremely popular.

There are a couple main benefits to cash rewards:

  • Employees can choose how they use their reward
  • The logistical coordination for cash rewards is simpler than incentive trip planning

Cash Rewards Drawbacks

The drawbacks to cash rewards, however, are often not immediately felt. Although employees will be thankful for a cash reward, there is less chance for connection and motivation that happen when teams come together on an incentive trip.

Additionally, employees likely won’t share the news of a cash bonus widely with their teams. This lack of sharing and excitement make cash bonuses less effective for overall employee motivation.

Cash incentives are also often viewed as part of an employee’s compensation, and not necessarily a reward like an incentive trip. This is important to consider as you weigh cash versus trip rewards. Will your employees eventually just see cash rewards as a given part of their compensation package regardless of performance?

Cash versus Trips: The Intangible Value

Choosing your reward structure really depends on your company, your employees, and your goals. Often your employees will tell you what they value most - we suggest going to the source rather than just reading stats online.

However, our experiences with clients combined with much of the research online shows us that incentive trips are much more effective than cash. The main reason for this?

The intangible value offered by incentive trips.

Those moments to connect, motivate, inspire.

They simply don’t happen with cash rewards.

Incentive trips offer so many opportunities to engage your employees, reinforce your company goals, and motivate teams that attend and even ones that don’t. Cash incentives, though flexible, don’t really offer the same returns.

Plan Your Next Incentive Trip with GoGather

Looking for experts to help you craft your incentive travel program? Whether you’re new to the incentive program arena or looking to level up your next incentive trip, GoGather can help you source locations, develop extraordinary experiences, and weave your brand into every aspect of the trip. 

Learn more about our incentive travel services and how we can partner with you to create an unforgettable incentive travel experience.


Katie Moser

Katie Moser is the Director of Marketing and Business Development at GoGather. With over 10 years of experience in marketing and a certificate in meeting and event planning, 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.