Top Tips For Adding CSR Activities to Incentive Travel Programs

Charitable events can elevate a group's reward travel experience. 

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Earlier this year, we organized our first international group travel program since the pandemic began. Beyond navigating the pandemic-related logistics of international travel, there was something else that made this trip special for us: We invited the 300 attendees to participate in a corporate social responsibility activity, organized in partnership with a local food bank, that let them help prepare packages of nonperishable food items and hygiene supplies for Aruban families in need.

While we expected some level of participation, we were blown away by the interest and enthusiasm from the attendees. Overall, this experience and the way the attendees really embraced it reinforced the importance of including these types of initiatives in our group travel programs moving forward.

Why CSR Now?

One may question if the timing is right to implement corporate social responsibility initiatives into incentive travel programs. While it’s true that participants are looking for a fun-filled escape from the stresses and challenges of the past 18  months, we’re probably missing the point if we think community service always equates to a kind of personal sacrifice that’s begrudgingly undertaken.

On the contrary, attendees understand that everyone has been struggling due to the pandemic and have shown that they’re willing to help others, in both large and small ways. We believe that ultimately people want to do good.

Including a CSR activity in a group travel program gives participants a chance to attain far more than a passing glimmer of charity. As program and trip organizers, we can offer a unique travel experience that connects travelers to their destination and gives them something to feel good about, take home with them, and share with others. Through positive peer pressure, a CSR initiative strengthens their connections to those they’re traveling with and provides a feeling that they’ve really “earned” the no-stress vacation they’re enjoying. Ultimately, this makes that blissful day at the beach, that refreshing poolside mojito and that amazing gourmet dinner taste all the sweeter.

This addition can be a welcome and successful component of any group trip, and even positioned as an dded value for the sponsoring company. To ensure its success and impact, the activity should be brief (approximately five percent of attendees’ overall leisure time); voluntary; relatively easy and comfortable to do; clearly communicated and meaningful (preferably, serving the needs of the destination’s local community). Following are the key steps for organizing a CSR initiative.

Steps for Organizing a CSR Activity

  • Research potential community needs/CSR options in the host destination.
  • Present the CSR concept to program decision-makers, offering a few options for how the initiative could be structured within the agenda.
  • Choose a specific project for the group. If the client/decision-makers choose to participate, work together to decide on the best option so that it fits within the sponsoring company’s corporate and/or event strategy.
  • Work out the details to make it as successful and impactful as possible, coordinating logistics of the initiative with the client, the recipient group, the local DMC, and if necessary, the hotel. Like any event component, the more thought and planning that goes into it, the better it will be.
  • Communicate the initiative to the attendees. Prior to the trip, participants should be informed about the initiative; why it’s being included in the program; how the sponsoring client is involved, and what the expectations are should they decide to participate.
  • Promote the CSR charity via your social media platforms before, during, and after. The impact of this initiative becomes so much bigger and better when you encourage your local partners, DMCs and hotels in particular, to promote the charity with their other clients. 

Doing Well By Doing Good

What if we were given an opportunity to do good and to help others in a more meaningful and impactful way? What if this opportunity required minimal effort and brought us together with our peers, colleagues, and loved ones? Better still, what if this experience could be tied to a fun and unique travel adventure, helping us connect more deeply to the destination and delivering lasting memories in the process? Wouldn’t that be an experience worth creating? To us, the answer is a resounding “yes”, and it’s why, in our opinion, CSR and group travel are a perfect match for event planners.

Kate Cardoso is director, strategic services, and Devin Ferreira is a content developer at HMI Performance Incentives.