The recent global economic recession had an impact on the way businesses ran different aspects of their operations, such as creating incentive programs to benefit their top performers and teams. As the economy stabilizes, however, the practice of rewarding employees for their exemplary efforts have continued, and have notably transformed to suit organizations' varying goals, financial capabilities, and management philosophies.

According to an online article by Insurance & Financial Meetings Management, the US Travel Foundation calculates that incentive travel and business meetings and events account for $92 billion of the annual American business travel spend. Of course, each company will have a different idea of how best to put their budget to good use.

Here are some of the ways in which companies across different industries are structuring their incentive travel packages to suit their unique needs and objectives today.

Some have shut their incentive programs down, while others continue to use them to fuel growth. Depending on how well the companies have fared in terms of their performance and profitability in recent years, some organizations have put a stop to their incentive travel packages for lack of sufficient resources. Others, on the other hand, use them as a means of pushing their company to greater heights through motivating employees to deliver excellent work — greater focus is directed toward the ROI.

Demand for quality accommodations and destinations is high, so companies are booking domestic city destinations for 2015 and 2016, and targeting 2017 for larger programs. Travel is consistently seen as a top and highly appealing dynamic driver for success among employees, so independent meetings and incentive travel planning houses are facing more challenges in securing the best locations. The key is to streamline and schedule their plans wisely and realistically.

Also, planners are finding that encouraging their clients to specify their target locations is ideal so that they can be more effective in booking accommodations, restaurant in events. These service providers are more willing to provide their best offerings to travel planners when the latter are open about being committed to booking in that specific city, instead of evaluating 5 or 10 cities for options.

Selection of destinations isn't as affected by budget as it is by corporate mandate. As it turns out, even companies that can afford international incentive travel can restrict themselves to domestic locations, as company policies dictate. Instead of sending people off to exotic tropical destinations, there are plenty of local warm weather locations that serve as go-to destinations. "New" local destinations that offer common activities but different experiences (e.g., skiing in warmer Lake Tahoe compared to skiing in snowy Northeast locations) are also gaining ground.

Those seeking to go international, on the other hand, focus on more affordable options (such as countries dealing with their own recessions and thus keep their prices low, or cruises that offer trips at various affordable price points).

Program design can be more flexible. Employees on incentive trips appreciate having some time to themselves instead of engaging in work-related activities every single day, so companies provide one or two free days so they can explore on their own.

Smaller programs enable companies to maintain higher-end trips. Some businesses prefer to provide incentive trips to highly appealing international destinations to the top 20, 30 or 50 employees, instead of offering trips for, say, 500 or 800 employees, to stay on budget and to keep employees focused on meeting higher qualifications.

Including families is another useful motivator. Most high-performing workers consider incentive travel time as their vacation time for the year, so it helps if companies enable qualified employees to take their spouses and children along.

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