• July 13, 2023

Industry leaders discuss the evolution of incentives at SITE GB event

Industry leaders discuss the evolution of incentives at SITE GB event

Industry leaders discuss the evolution of incentives at SITE GB event 1024 683 micebook.

Is the traditional incentive travel programme dying? That was the provocative question debated by event industry leaders at the recent SITE GB Leaders Retreat at Cowdray House in West Sussex.

With the three Rs – reward, recognition and retention – more important than ever in the post-pandemic workplace, incentives are not dying, but they are definitely evolving, and agencies and suppliers need to adapt to the changing demands of corporate clients and their incentive participants to ensure the future of the sector.

The board of SITE GB gathered MDs of incentive agencies including Top Banana, Strata, Goose Live and Nteractive alongside senior representatives from global luxury hotel brands, DMCs and destinations to discuss the evolution of incentives at the residential event on 3-4 July, which included engaging content sessions and experiences.

After a welcome lunch, corporate panellists shared their views on how incentives are changing in a session facilitated by Times Ten founder, coach and facilitator, Zoe Tuffs, which was followed by a workshop session where participants broke into groups, shared insights and collaborated on solutions to the challenges faced by the incentive market.

Corporate panellist Maria Tsierkezos from BT Enterprise said: “I was delighted to be invited to share the perspective of a corporate marketeer in the incentives and events space. The relaxed and open conversation certainly pushed the boundaries of common perspectives and misconceptions about ‘what clients want’. After so many years in the industry, it was brilliant to take the day to immerse ourselves in thought leadership and understand each other’s obstacles and drivers.”

Key obstacles and challenges discussed included the semantics of the word incentive, which can be challenging internally for some corporates, particularly those with ethics departments or in highly regulated industries like financial services, while getting approval for incentive travel programmes has become harder to justify because of the focus on ESG and economic uncertainty. Leaders also discussed how the workforce has changed since the pandemic and employees are demanding more flexibility and freedom in how they are recognised and rewarded for their hard work, while the corporate panellists shared how some suppliers in the sector lack creativity and are repurposing programmes that have become stale.

Despite all these challenges, incentive travel remains an incredibly effective tool for reward recognition and driving both sales performance and employee engagement, loyalty and retention. The big opportunity in the post pandemic world is that people value experiences over material things, and that is where the opportunity for growth lies. By working as true strategic partners to corporate clients, asking the right questions, focusing on strategic objectives and measuring against them to prove effectiveness, and building in a ‘Choice Architecture’, the workshop groups concluded that incentive agencies and suppliers can provide tailored bespoke solutions that speak to both their client’s brand values and the audience’s needs.

Following the thought-provoking discussions, guests enjoyed a private group polo lesson with the team from The Cowdray Park Polo Academy during the afternoon, before being treated to Cowdray’s brand new fireside dining experience set in the beautiful gardens, surrounded by Wellingtonia trees, with the florals and food used either grown, made or foraged on the Estate.

SITE GB board director, Caroline Lumgair Wiseman commented: “We are delighted with the outcomes and positive feedback following the event. Working alongside an exceptional venue, captivating corporate speakers, and a group of inspiring industry leaders, we curated an event experience focused on fostering community, learning, and collaboration. It was a joy to host such a valuable and memorable gathering.”

Neil Georges, general manager of Cowdray House added: “Our team at Cowdray Estate were honoured to welcome and host the SITE GB Leaders Retreat to Cowdray House. Alongside informative panel discussions and engaging workshops, our guests enjoyed various activities available at Cowdray House. The event showcased the way in which we seamlessly blend business with leisure activities, an emerging trend Cowdray House is witnessing from both corporate groups and private hires.”

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