Why the road less travelled is best for your next travel incentive


Travel can help engage consumers by putting unusual and unexpected incentives at the heart of marketing campaigns, says Amy Nield, Head of Prize at Sodexo

The world’s a crowded place, isn’t it?

Think about it. What was your last trip really like? What really stood out for you? It may have been the giant cruise ship that suddenly sailed into town, emptying its hold of minions armed with selfie sticks, cluttering up cafés and restaurants in their wake.

It may have been the daily fight for a sunbed by the pool.

Or it may have been a seemingly endless traffic jam to nowhere. Too much? Well, it seems UK holidaymakers are putting busy touristy destinations behind them and looking closer to home for more bespoke travel experiences. And they’ve got one thing in common: they want a great experience.

We’ve just published a report –  our ‘2018 Sodexo UK Exploring Travel’ e-book – which reveals that promotional marketing expectations are at an all-time high and the competition for consumer attention is fiercer than ever before. It’s up to marketers to deliver on these expectations to create maximum stand out.

If you put experiences at the heart of your campaign, you can engage consumers and truly take your brand places.

In fact, ‘experience’ is driving customer engagement in brand marketing like never before. For this reason, travel promotions can give marketers the edge they need to help their offering stand out in an increasingly noisy and saturated world. But they need to be unique and they need to be immersive.

So how can you beat the crowds and take your consumers on a brand journey they’re unlikely to forget in a hurry?

Unexpected experiences a marketing necessity

According to the British Tourism and Travel Show, not only do “33% of consumers put ‘exploring new places’ as their main motivator for travelling,” but “93% of Destination Marketing Officers consider experiences ‘important’ or ‘vital’ to consumer decisions.”

It’s not enough for UK travellers to want to go to see a new city. They want to book an experience to shout about while they’re there, too.

For marketers who wish to influence behaviour change, it means looking beyond the obvious. If you’re thinking about a standard giveaway that on paper seems reasonable enough, you need to look again.

It’s about doing something different, creating a promotion that reaches the right audience, at the right time, and stopping consumers in their tracks.

If you’re beginning to perspire with anticipation, please don’t fret.

An ‘unexpected’ travel prize incentive doesn’t have to break the bank. Long gone are the days when only a beautiful Caribbean beach would cut the billboard. Today’s holidaymakers are a more varied bunch.

Now it’s all about what you do, not where you do it.

The West Country – but not as you know it

Perhaps it’s down to the fact that many of us have long been accustomed to making the most of cheap no-frills air carriers, but domestic tourism is facing somewhat of a renaissance. ABTA is even reporting that UK demand is set to grow even more this year.

In fact, as Sodexo’s research reveals, “84% of people are considering, planning or have already taken a UK overnight break outside of their home county in 2018.”

Smart marketers can use this thinking to create an affordable and impactful promotional campaign that taps into our love of experiences and a desire to stay closer to home. So, where to next? Now that’s a question.

Our research reveals that while “London may be the number one UK destination for International visitors… it’s the South West of England that ranks highest for domestic tourists (Barclays).” Ah, we can almost smell the pasties.

The off-season is now the on-season, promising quieter towns, villages and roads, along with a less stressful experience for those seeking to get away from it all.

So-called summer destinations such as St Ives boasts indoor cultural treats such as The Tate St Ives; Penzance offers the all year round wild cookery school ‘Fat Hen’ and vibrant arts city Falmouth offers fantastic festivals every month of the year.

UK consumers may love the West Country, but if you can tie your travel prize incentives into latest trends coming from that part of the world, you’ll turn heads more than, say, offering a singular surfing trip in Newquay might do.

And on that note, is now a good time to mention targeting? Think about who you want to impress and you’ll find there’s a whole world of possibilities available.

All about the bragging rights

Whatever it is, it seems consumers are looking for something a bit different. They’re looking at new destinations, perhaps to beat the crowds and find their own way when it comes to holiday planning.

There’s big head-turning kudos for brands who actively engage consumers by helping them to boost those all-important bragging rights.

If you can create the feeling that your promotion is something new, something unheard of, you’ll do well to create maximum stand out.

Our report says ABTA nods to several major cultural anniversaries and events which are set to help cement the UK as the most popular destination [for Brits] overall for holidays in 2018:

  • Bristol hosts the 40th anniversary of its world-famous Balloon Fiesta.
  • Liverpool will mark 10 years since its successful bid to become European Capital of Culture.
  • Several cities including Manchester, Oxford, London and Leeds have gallery take overs and other cultural events to mark the centenary of the Women’s Vote.

By building travel incentives in around events such as these, brands can find ways to tie their marketing ideas in via timely, eye-catching creative and thoughtful messaging.

Five go mad off the beaten track

Here are five more off-the-beaten-track UK travel ideas for weird, wacky and wonderful weekend breaks that may whet even the most seasoned traveller’s appetite and won’t burn the promotional budget – but don’t try them all at once, kids:

Who wouldn’t want to chase a rolling cheese wheel down a hill for a laugh? Well, maybe not all of us, but adrenaline junkies will love it. And for spectators, the event is guaranteed to be a memorable one. Just imagine the cheesy craic in the local taverns and inns afterwards.

A foodie break to the seaside town of Whitstable is a mouth-watering delight. Throw in a quirky overnight stay in alternative accommodation such as the Fisherman’s Huts, and you’ve got a veritable feast for the senses.


If you can’t wait for Tokyo 2020, how about the UK’s answer to the Olympics instead? The Highland Games take place every summer – think kilts, cabers and ceilidhs. Add in a trip to a whisky distillery or see where all the action from James Bond’s Skyfall took place.

Somerset plays host to a wonderful and wacky night carnival every November. Like something out of a picture book, this type of event will seriously capture your audience’s imaginations. Attract customers with a night at nearby hot spot, Babington House, or a hotel and spa in beautiful Bath.

Nothing says fun like a fabulous festival, but with so many out there, it’s important you align your brand with a high-quality, absorbing experience. The Green Man is Times’ columnist Caitlin Moran’s festival of choice and one that boasts something for everyone. Dial up the experience with a bell tent and hot tub and you’ll have instant promotional success.

The best incentive for social media marketing

We could go on. We won’t. The point is, if you take your brand promotion to the lesser known parts of well-loved locations, you’ll not only surprise and inspire your audience, but you’ll start some fantastic conversations – which hopefully will be shared on social media.

Travel incentives, such as an unusual, fun-filled weekend away, are perfect for social media, and your bespoke travel prize draw could be the perfect complement to fast-moving promotional platforms such as Instagram and Pinterest.

Ultimately, wherever you decide to take your consumer campaigns, the ‘experience economy’ is where it’s at. Take it out of the mundane and into the wild, unexpected, authentic and unusual, and you’ll entice customers by the bucket and spadeful.

After all, it’s the road less travelled that’s leading to travel promotion gold. Keep that front of mind and you’ll soon be creating customer engagement that’s well and truly worth the ride.

Amy Nield, Head of Prize at Sodexo. Part of Sodexo Employee and Consumer Engagement, Sodexo’s Neon solutions drive consumers to your brand – and keep them coming back. As consumer engagement specialists, we know how to influence behaviour. From building brand awareness to driving consumer loyalty, our unique mix of expertise means we can transform the way people interact with your brand.

The ‘2018 Sodexo UK Exploring Travel’ report can be downloaded for free from the Sodexo site.