In 2023, over 56% of employers spent more on incentive travel per employee compared to 2019 – and according to the Incentive Research Foundation’s 2024 Trends Report, there’s more good news for the industry.

As of 2024, around 84% of US businesses have embraced the power of incentive travel (and 53% consider it a necessity), spending $176 billion on incentives, including gift cards, award points, and travel, annually – and South African businesses are hot on their heels! It’s extremely reassuring to know that the future is bright and just how impactful these trips can be on your teams’ productivity and overall happiness.

Read on for a detailed round-up of the report and what 2024 holds in store for global incentive travel, including exciting developments in technology and emerging trends.


The benefits of incentive travel

Who wouldn’t feel more motivated by earning an all-expenses paid trip somewhere special, such as Rwanda, Botswana, or Iceland? Unsurprisingly, 90% of those surveyed by the IRF consider incentive travel an effective strategy for recruiting and retaining their company’s talent.

Growth predictions

According to the report, the incentives industry is definitely on the up, with a 37% net increase in budgets for merchandise, gift cards, and event gifting. Growth is expected through 2024 and 2025, but budget increases often lag behind inflation rates – a massive challenge for businesses all over the globe.


Incentives challenges

Inflation is undoubtedly the top pitfall for companies investing in incentive travel in 2024. 74% of the IRF’s respondents highlighted rising costs and inflation as obstacles, noting how the cost of rewards and incentives is growing faster than budget increases.

Luckily, many companies are changing positively to adapt to inflation, such as altering their incentive programme’s length, limiting trip attendee numbers, and reducing inclusions. A tiered approach to incentive programmes is also emerging, offering different rewards based on employees’ performance and achievements.

Here are Team GILTEDGE’s top tips and recommendations for addressing the issue of inflation in your business’s incentive travel programmes:

  • Prioritise key experiences: Focus on the quality of experiences rather than quantity, choosing only a few standout, impactful activities.
  • Early planning and booking: Let us know your ideas for future trips so we can secure your travel services early and avoid higher airfares and lack of availability.
  • Adopt a flexible itinerary: Be ready to modify travel plans based on fluctuating prices and availability.
  • Consider alternative destinations: Explore less popular or emerging destinations offering a similar experience at a lower cost – this is also a more sustainable travel approach, helping to tackle overtourism.
  • Local is lekker: Opt for destinations closer to home to reduce travel costs.
  • Community-based experiences: Engage with local communities for authentic experiences that are affordable and impactful.
  • Survey employee preferences: Understanding what employees value most can help you tailor experiences that are cost-effective yet highly rewarding.
  • Invest in comprehensive travel insurance: Protect against unforeseen costs due to cancellations, delays, or emergencies.

Adapting to the changing workforce

As the workforce gets ever younger, with Millennials and Gen Z dominating from 2025, companies are redesigning their incentive programmes to appeal to these younger generations’ values: sustainability, personalisation, and authenticity. Millennials and Gen Z also value experiential rewards more highly than material ones.


Technology in incentive programmes

Of course, there’s also a shift towards adopting more technology to cater to younger employees’ expectations. Companies are spending more on technology, particularly for faster feedback and engagement.

Artificial intelligence (AI) also makes waves, transforming personalisation in rewards and taking a lead role in analysing employee performance. However, there are concerns about data security and job displacement with increased AI adoption in the incentives space. Overall, companies will see AI as a tool for efficiency within incentive programmes but continue to rely on the human touch for execution and personalisation.

Incentive travel with GILTEDGE

In 2024, Team GILTEDGE looks forward to providing our clients with even more memorable, authentic, and personalised incentive trips covering all bases. Whether trekking through the jungle in search of gorillas in Rwanda or enjoying a sidecar ride through the Cape Winelands, there’s an incentive trip for every type of team.

Contact us today for more information.