The profile of the incentive traveller is changing. Tourism Update spoke to Daryl Keywood, Managing Director of Walthers DBS to try and get a sense of what the modern incentive traveller looks like.

Incentive travellers are usually the top performers in their organisations. Typically A-type personalities, they are well travelled individuals and can be more demanding than the typical leisure traveller, something that is driven by high budgets and the high expectations that come with them.

“Leisure travellers pay for their own holiday, but incentive winners’ costs are paid for by the organisation. The high budget and group buying power of an incentive means that exclusive venues, unique experiences, and never-been-done-before options form part of the incentive planner’s vocabulary,” says Keywood.

In terms of the profile of incentive travellers, Keywood says incentive travel is more encompassing, and now includes non-sales people who play a role in exceeding an organisation’s budget. He also points out that the industry often determines the demographics of the travellers. “Car dealer incentives, for example, still mostly comprise men, although we are now fortunately seeing more women qualifiers. There are also majority-women incentives, especially from multi-level marketing companies like Amway, Tupperware, and cosmetic or beauty product manufacturers.”

Keywood says traditionally incentive participants comprised a more senior group of Baby Boomers and Gen X. “Today we see a much younger participant profile and often have millennial qualifiers. This broader age profile does come with its own challenges, and organisers and local DMCs need to ensure that the experiences appeal to a wider age group.”

Millennials and multi-generational groups

Providing options to the group is one way of ensuring that everyone from a multi-generational group is catered for, says Keywood. “Flexibility is important. The fact that an employer may have booked and paid for a particular activity, for example hot-air ballooning, might not be particularly interesting to someone who wants to go clubbing and not wake up at 4am, the usual time to wake up for that activity.”

Keywood says, traditionally employees were more respectful and kept to the planned schedule, while today’s participants do their own research before travel, and may deviate from the schedule if they find something they would prefer to do. “They ask opinions on social media and if they feel that there is an alternative attraction or experience that is more interesting, then they will often just do their own thing, which results in no-shows. We’ve even had no-shows from top performers at awards functions, which can be embarrassing.”

Younger participants have different interests, and Keywood says this needs to be reflected in the incentive travel programme. “For example, in South Africa we are rightly proud of our wines and traditionally have offered a day spent tasting wine at several estates along with a leisurely lunch.” But this does not appeal to the younger participants who are looking for more interactive experiences, Keywood says. “Cycling between estates, walking in the vineyards, blending one’s own wine, and taking home an individually labelled and personalised bottle is much more ‘Instagrammable’.” Keywood adds that it is these moments that the younger participants cherish.