Incentive travel comes in many shapes and sizes. From ethnic food tutorials, to cooking school, to vigorous outdoor adventure, to ecology camp, to legendary golfing venues, to social work among the world’s disadvantaged, incentive travel rewards are being customized to fit almost every interest, taste, avocation and hobby. And why not? Studies reveal that the more personalized an incentive travel reward is, the more powerful its motivational component.
Today, the fastest growing segment in incentive travel is genealogy travel. “It’s everywhere you turn,” says A.J. Jacobs, author of It’s All Relative. Also called Homeland or Legacy Travel, genealogy trips combine the search for a personal, emotional, or spiritual relationship to the past with a traditional vacation.
“There’s a desire to see firsthand where our ancestors walked and farmed and ate and lived and raised their kids,” says Dallen Timothy, a professor at Arizona State University and editor of The Journal of Heritage Tourism. “People are turning to their own familial past as a way to find grounding in a tumultuous world.”
The Family Tree
Like so many other recent trends, it all started with family tree websites on the internet. As the trend to find out where our ancestors came from picked up steam, the technology began to evolve. Documents such as birth certificates and immigration papers became easily accessible on the web and interest in genealogy exploded. Now, DNA testing kits can determine people’s familial origins and link them with living relatives. It’s estimated that $4.3 billion will be spent on those products and services globally this year.
Back to the Homeland
And thousands of would be genealogists jet off to ancestral homelands each year. Countries like Ireland, where an estimated 80 million people worldwide have roots, market themselves to those with ethnic connections. Northern Ireland counts up to 20,000 annual visitors from overseas who participate in genealogical activities during their trips.
Genealogy Travel is Rewarding
University of Illinois Department of Recreation, Sport, and Tourism professor Dr. Carla Santos says, “These travelers are not looking for a relaxing getaway, at least not in the traditional beaches and shopping sort of way. Instead, they’re tourists in search of their own stories…It starts at home, where they learn everything they can online,” she says. “Then they want to experience places the family comes from and get a sense of what their lives may have been like.” Dr. Santos sees ancestral homeland visits as the ultimate form of genealogy travel. “When people experience different things and places, they come back transformed,” she says. “Genealogy is so personal that I imagine the transformative power of a trip like this is really great. Exploring, redefining and confirming our identities are life-long projects. This kind of genealogical travel gives us a practical way to think about belonging, home, heritage and identity.”
Make a Template
If you have not already considered genealogy travel as part of your incentive travel program now is the time to start.
• Spend some time researching the most common countries of origin found in the U.S. like Ireland, England, Italy, Poland, Germany, or a selection of Middle Eastern and African countries.
• Find the travel companies in the countries you select that specialize in genealogy travel.
• Plan typical genealogy trips based on the input from these genealogy travel experts.
• Finalize incentive genealogy travel templates that corporate HR departments can use to customize rewards for deserving employees.
Planning effective genealogy travel incentives is an ongoing process but the old adage,
–PROPER PRIOR PREPARATION PREVENTS POOR PERFORMANCE –