10 Incentive Travel Facts You Can Put To Good Use


On April 6, leaders from across the meetings and events industry came together to support the second annual Global Meetings Industry Day (GMID). GMID events were held across the globe to demonstrate the measurable impact that meetings have on businesses, economies and communities.

The Incentive Research Foundation (IRF), a private not-for-profit foundation that focuses its initiatives on pragmatic research highlighting the premise and the power of incentive and motivational programs, issued a list of 10 incentive travel facts to commemorate Global Meetings Industry Day. These insights will help you plan your next offsite event.

38 percent of all U.S. firms over $1MM in revenue use incentive travel to motivate their people and partners. For incentive programs in which travel is the key award, smaller firms generally report a higher reliance on individual travel, while larger firms split rewards more equally across individual and group travel. This is particularly evident in channel programs. Additionally, sales and employee programs tend to outpace channel and customer programs in their use of individual travel regardless of company size. (This data is from the Incentive Marketplace Estimate Research Study published by the Incentive Federation and available at IncentiveFederation.org.)

U.S. firms spend over $14B annually on incentive travel. Nearly half of all buyers surveyed by the Society for Incentive Travel Excellence (SITE) say that budgets have increased, and 60 percent of buyers report they plan to increase the number of people eligible for incentive travel awards in 2017.

Net Optimism Score for incentive travel in the fall of 2016 was 26 percent, meaning the industry is still moderately positive about the outlook for incentive travel.
To assist with tracking the state of the industry, the IRF created a new simplified metric to track the economic outlook for the incentive industry: the Net Optimism Score. Similar to the well-known Net Promoter Score, the Net Optimism Score is the percentage of respondents providing a positive rating to an industry question minus the percent giving a negative rating. A higher Net Optimism Score indicates greater optimism in the industry. The score of 26 percent is down from a recent high trend surpassing 50 percent that began in the fall of 2013, but it is still considerably higher than the extreme dips seen in 2009 and 2011.

As of fall 2016, per-person incentive travel budgets are most commonly between $3,000 and $4,000, although about 40 percent of the industry spends more. There is a strong positive outlook for budget increases in incentive travel programs — overall and for F&B (food and beverage) and rooms.

Average per-person spend has increased by 5 percent annually since fall 2014. The current average spend is $3,755. Although stakeholders expect an increase in the number of rooms required for trips (but not nights) and the number of participants earning a trip, 56 percent of respondents also agree that costs are increasing more than budgets.

The most commonly selected destinations for incentive group travel are now the USA, Caribbean, Mexico and Europe, showing a return to long-haul destinations. Fully 73 percent of respondents to the 2017 IRF Incentive Industry Outlook Survey anticipate no changes in the types of destinations they select for their incentive travel programs.

Analysis shows that the economic Net Optimism Score for incentive travel tracks closely with overall U.S. economic performance, often acting as a leading indicator. There is a strong positive outlook for incentive program budget increases in the coming year, with the increases distributed across program technology, awards, communication and to a lesser extent, administration. Industry suppliers also expect the number of participants earning rewards to increase.

Almost 60 percent of planners have experienced some form of disruption in their events, estimating that almost a quarter of their events have been affected in some way, according to research by the IRF and the University of South Carolina. Zika, terrorism, hurricanes…The list of potential event disruptions seems to be expanding endlessly by both disruption type and frequency. Corporations have learned to deal with the new reality of ensuring their associates are safe and secure when traveling on company business. Corporations will continue to travel the world with both eyes wide open to the realities of government coups, terrorist events and TSA security lines. Even with a strong dollar and expanded budgets, planners continue to explore new venues, locations and opportunities with ever-heightened scrutiny and ever-increasing safety requirements.

Planners view “flawless execution” as the No. 1 way their most trusted hotel partners add value, while hoteliers view “providing a strong vision” as the No. 1 way their most trusted planner partners add value to the relationship.  The majority of both hoteliers and planners responding to an IRF survey on the relationship between the two viewed their relation­ship with the other side as either collaborative or supportive. Planners also expressed concern for the level of training for hotel managers and sales­people. One planner noted simply, “I need sales staffs that can actually answer my questions without passing me off.”

Although planners and organizations are enthusiastic about wellness, there is often a disconnect in implementation. The top wellness inclusions in meetings today are reduced calorie drinks, healthy snacks, smoke-free properties, free access to fitness facilities and frequent breaks. When asked in an IRF survey what wellness initiatives they would like to try if given the chance, meeting and event planners responded with a wealth of ideas, including yoga, boxing, resistance training and mindfulness/meditation rooms.