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Expanding experiences in 2021

Written by: Abbe McCabe, Director of Experiences, BI WORLDWIDE
(View Author Bio)

As our social circles grew smaller in 2020, so did our circles of exploration. But this year, the light at the end of the tunnel shines brighter and a new outlook is emerging - with a desire to start experiencing the world again. 

Our circle for exploration became smaller and smaller in 2020. When we compare booking habits between 2019 and 2020, we saw this decline in both travel and experiences (tours and activities). Given the state of the world, that's no surprise.

A look at recent trends

As our social circles got smaller, we saw the popularity of certain types of experiences rise, like socially-distanced and outdoor activities. We also saw a trend towards bookings of outdoor adventures, such as river cruises. When we compare this to the previous year, we saw 60% of people chose outdoor or water experiences in 2020 as compared to 8% in the same timeframe in 2019.

Bookings for experiences that traditionally last longer also changed from 2019 to 2020. Only 4% of people booked day trips and excursions in 2020 as compared to 26% in 2019.

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These trends remain consistent when looking at the distance in which people are traveling as well. In 2019, 54% of people who redeemed points for travel booked a flight and 37% used points for accommodations (hotels and vacation rentals). These percentages were nearly reversed in 2020, when 31% of people redeemed for flights and 55% chose accommodations. This change in preferences is indicative of the global concern for cleanliness and safety.

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Where experiences are headed

The new year brings a new outlook and the desire to expand our circles again. Expedia Group Media Solutions recently conducted research with a global audience to gather insight into how the pandemic has affected the mindset of travelling (Expedia Group Media Solutions – Traveler Sentiment & Influences 2020/2021). Many of their findings correlate with what we see for points redemption on BI WORLDWIDE's Experiences Marketplace platform.

They found that 7 in 10 travellers are willing to drive up to 6 hours for a leisure trip during COVID-19.

In addition, their research found that travellers are more likely to plan trips for the time period of April to September 2021. There are variances geographically with some travellers more likely to travel sooner, specifically those from South America, Asia and Mexico. Australians are, of course, investigating domestic travel experiences until international borders reopen.

The appeal of experiences

Experiences continue to be at the forefront of ways to motivate employees and sales teams. Our research from June 2020 confirms that travel and experiences are inspiring and given the chance to earn them, people will go the extra mile and fully commit to their work.

We found that people who felt their organisation's incentives were exciting were eight times more likely to find work inspiring. What makes an incentive exciting? We looked at what incentives people had earned in the past year and compared that to whether they felt inspired at work. What we found is rewards like experiences and travel were the most associated with feeling inspired.

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For companies with employees who do not qualify to earn incentives, experiences are still a great option to continue to engage and inspire employees. Our Experiences Marketplace offers 85,000 experiences that are $100 or less.

As we head further into 2021, we predict we'll see people expand their circle of exploration at their own pace and comfort level. And whether it's an experience just down the street or a dream holiday in a faraway place, we know we'll see experiences and travel continue to inspire performance.

Abby McCabe

Director of Experiences
BI WORLDWIDE

Abbe McCabe is BI WORLDWIDE's Director of Experiences. Abbe has served in several roles at BIW, giving her a thorough understanding of how to inspire program participants. As an Account Manager, Abbe managed events for a diverse client base, including telecommunications, technology and automotive industries. Abbe also served as Design Director for Event Technology, spending four years overseeing Event Technology solutions. She was responsible for research, development and implementation of industry technology to align with the event’s goals and objectives. In her current role, Abbe is responsible for BIW's Experiences Marketplace. She is developing and leading the way in conversations around experiences that inspire our customer’s participants!

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