How to Plan Colorado Incentive Trips

By Beth Buehler

Incentive travel trips are meant to be special—a nod for a job well done. Not just any destination will suffice when top employees and partners are being recognized and presented with experiences to be remembered. Colorado excels as an incentive travel destination due to top-notch hotels and resorts, unique guest ranches, a wide array of amazing activities and incredibly scenic backdrops.

Mountain biking Telluride Resort trails with terrific views of snowcapped peaks. Courtesy Telluride Resort.

Plus, it is easy to plan an incentive trip when there is a team of enthusiastic partners all well-practiced in working with groups and brought together by Destination Colorado. One of the most beneficial results of this partnership is a handy website that includes ideas for destinations, venues and meeting services and features informative blogs and an easy RFP process.

Earlier this year, the Incentive Research Foundation (IRF) released its 2017 Trends Study, which highlights 10 key trends for incentive travel, reward and recognition programs. I won’t go into each trend in detail as the full study is available here, but three caught my attention as they relate to Colorado.  

The Increasing Demand for Non-Cash Rewards & Recognition
– The number of U.S. businesses using non-cash rewards has risen from 26% in 1996 to 84% in 2016. That is a big jump! Colorado has helped many companies successfully usher back the return of incentive travel trips after the economic downtown that started nearly a decade ago, and innovative destination management companies around the state (listed under Meeting Services on Destination Colorado’s website) are helping create and carry out one-of-a-kind itineraries.

An outdoor event in downtown Denver planned by Imprint Group. Courtesy Imprint Group.

Incentive Travel Market – Nearly 40% of U.S. businesses are using incentive travel in some manner to reward and recognize their top performing employees, salespeople and channel partners. Research commissioned by the Colorado Tourism Office consistently points to Colorado being among the top places on peoples’ bucket lists. Incentive trips should be to destinations where recipients dream of traveling. Start off by picking a Colorado town or region that best fits your attendees and organization. Then head down the venue path and utilize local experts for activity ideas.

Dining on the patio at Beaver Creek Lodge with ski slopes as the backdrop. Courtesy Beaver Creek Lodge.

The Emerging “Next Level” of Experience – Tapping emotional engagement through a strategic choice of rewards and incentives is a powerful way for businesses to motivate their stakeholders. Being a Colorado native and regularly traveling around the state for work and leisure, I believe the Centennial State has long excelled in the experience arena. In fact, your group might just find itself in an actual arena for a Western rodeo, concert and barbecue dinner with all the trimmings in destinations like Steamboat Springs, Snowmass and Colorado Springs.

Steamboat Springs Pro Rodeo Series. Photo by Noah Wetzel.

Or check out the options at Longmeadow Game Resort and Event Center and the many unique places listed under Venues on Destination Colorado’s website.

One of the many activities on the wide-open plains of Colorado. Courtesy Longmeadow Game Resort and Conference Center.

The IRF study states, “The focus for travel is now not only on the destination and venue, but equally important are the authentic, unique, individualized experiences delivered throughout the agenda.” Check out the exceptional experiences and places Colorado has to offer and utilize Destination Colorado’s website when planning your organization’s next incentive trip!

Beth Buehler is editor of Colorado Meetings + Events and Mountain Meetings magazines, has planned numerous meetings and events and enjoys exploring Colorado in all seasons.