« Experience » More Valued Than « Things »

While this can be true for the short-term, an abundance of recent behavioral science and psychology research has shown that “experiences” actually provide greater and more enduring happiness than do acquired possessions.

According to research by Cornell University Psychology Professor Dr. Thomas Gilovich (as described by author Jay Cassano on Fast Company’s website FastCoexist.com), buying things can make us happy, but only for a while. The reason? We tend to quickly “adapt” to the new possession, and it soon “fades into the background and becomes the new normal.”

On the other hand, experiences (such as vacations) “become an ingrained part of our identity (and) are a bigger part of ourselves than our material goods,” according to Gilovich. “Experiences really are part of you. We are the sum total of our experiences.”

These experiences provide fond (often life-long) memories, as well as fun stories to share with others. Plus, his studies also found that shared experiences (and common experiences) connect people to others much more so than bonding with someone who has the same material possession.

Certainly understandable, but it reinforces the immense value of Incentive Travel Programs and face-to-face meetings and conventions at memorable venues that provide distinctive experiences.

Anticipation Also Increases Happiness

Part of the happiness attributed to experiences is also the anticipation of the upcoming experience, according to another article on Gilovich’s research, by author and senior editor James Hamblin, MD, in The Atlantic magazine. While waiting for a pre-ordered material item can cause impatience, anticipating an upcoming vacation actually elicits more happiness.

In our industry, this can certainly apply to participants anticipating their upcoming attendance at an Incentive Travel Program at a fantastic resort in an alluring destination, and their participation at a motivating convention in a desirable venue.

As you likely know, statistics show the impressive ROI and effectiveness of Incentive Travel Programs, where the opportunity to qualify for a special “lifetime experience” that reflects achievement recognition, and where the individual can share that experience within a community of like contributors, is a very strong motivator. Part of the appeal and effectiveness of these programs is the anticipation of the upcoming trip.

The Value of Incentive Travel Experiences

Other studies also reinforce this message. Take the comprehensive study conducted by the Aberdeen Group concerning Sales Performance Management 2012: How Best In Class Optimize the Front Line and Grow the Bottom Line. The study showed that organizations that provide non-cash rewards/ recognition (such as travel) had an average year-over-year annual corporate revenue increase of 9.6% versus 3% for all others.

The study also found that organizations that provide non-cash rewards/recognition had a 1.6% year-over-year increase in team attainment of quota, versus a decrease of 2.2% for all others.

While The Participants Viewpoint of Incentive Travel study in 2012 by the Site International Foundation and the Incentive Travel Council of the Incentive Marketing Association found that 88.6% of those who earned the travel reward agreed that it made them feel appreciated by the host company, and 72.4% of earners reported an increased feeling of loyalty toward the company that provided the award.

The Science of Spending on Experiences

Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton, authors of the book Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending (as described in an article by Carmen Nobel on the Forbes.com website), concur with the research that spending money on experiences (rather than material purchases) is a key to contentment. Furthermore, making the experience a “treat” (i.e. limiting access to it) makes it even more appealing and appreciated.

The bottom line?

For years business leaders have intuitively understood the value of providing appealing and motivating travel experiences to their employees, clients, members, and/or partners. Behavioral science research now provides even more reason to provide distinctive travel experiences to those important to your organization, to reap the greatest reward.

By David Gabri,
CEO, Associated Luxury Hotels International (ALHI)

david-gabri-ceo-of-associated-luxury-hotels-international-alhi-2David Gabri is CEO of Associated Luxury Hotels International (ALHI), the leading independent Global Sales Organization serving the North American Meetings & Incentive marketplace for its membership of over 250 luxury-level hotels and resorts around the world. ALHI’s portfolio also features Destination Management Companies (DMCs) in more than 100 locations worldwide, plus 23 luxury-level cruise ships. Contact your nearest ALHI Global Sales Office, or call the “ALHI Group Desk” toll-free at 866-303-2544, and visit alhi.com .