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Study reveals trends in the global incentive travel industry

Three associations, all with a focus on incentive travel, come together to release a pan-industry study of the global incentive travel sector.

Society for Incentive Travel Excellence (SITE), Incentive Research Foundation (IRF), and Financial and Insurance Conference Professionals (FICP) announced the release of the first joint study of the global incentive travel industry.

Incentive Travel Industry Index Powered by SITE Index, IRF Outlook and FICP is a landmark for the industry, providing unprecedented, consolidated insights into the current state of incentive travel and where it is headed. The Index will be formally launched today in Las Vegas during a Smart Monday session when a panel of industry experts representing SITE, FICP and IRF will discuss the findings with Lori Cioffi, Senior Vice President/Chief Content Director, Northstar Meetings Group. The session will be streamed live on the SITE Facebook page.

Conducted in association with J.D. Power, the study is a wide-ranging analysis of business conditions, attitudes and expectations impacting the incentive travel and motivational events industry worldwide. With over 1,000 respondents from more than 80 countries, it is the largest survey ever conducted of senior players in the incentive travel industry, doubling responses from past individual efforts and netting new insights based on combined questioning.

Survey respondents were balanced between incentive travel buyers and suppliers, with buyers representing incentive agencies and corporate users, while more than half of the sellers are DMCs. The majority are tenured industry professionals with an average of 17.3 years of experience – approximately half are located in the US with the other half outside the US.

“For 2018 we increased the number of corporate end-user respondents by a staggering 80 percent.  Of these, 40 percent were from the financial and insurance industry, traditionally a big user of incentive travel, said Steve Bova, CAE, FICP executive director.

While the survey findings show that incentive travel is on the rise, growth isn’t happening unchecked. For instance, costs to operate an incentive travel program are going up.

 “Although the findings show that incentive travel is growing, the reality is that there are counter-currents such as rising costs that may temper growth,” added IRF president, Melissa Van Dyke. “Over two-thirds of planners are taking steps to contain costs such as less expensive destinations or less expensive amenities. Fortunately, the nature of incentive travel programs allows companies to adjust them to to reflect concerns with costs.”

Key highlights from the study include:

Budgets for 2018 are Up

  • Over half (54%) of buyers report an increase in budgets year over year with the median per person spend remaining stable at $4,000. Corporate users report a higher median spend ($4,550) versus incentive agencies ($3,500).

More Qualifiers Than Ever

  • Sixty-five percent (65%) of buyers are increasing the number of incentive program qualifiers, fueled by company growth and optimism in the economy.

Incentives as a Builder of Workplace Culture

  • Sales and profitability remain the top reasons to run an incentive program, but more importance is being given to building relationships between management and employees, increasing productivity and employee engagement.
  • Almost 70% of buyers say their programs are effective at achieving business objectives. However, only a quarter always measure ROI/ROO, with more than 50% saying such measurements are not required.

Increase in Use of All Inclusive Destinations

  • All-inclusive destinations are on the rise particularly for incentive agencies as, for  the fourth year in succession, buyers continue to seek cost reductions. Sellers are looking to add value through creativity, innovation, and partnerships.  
  • North America, the Caribbean and Western Europe remain the most popular destinations for incentive travel, with destination appeal being the top criteria for selecting one destination over another followed by overall safety and value for money.
  • Fam trips and hosted buyer meetings are the primary sources buyers use to learn about a destination.

Wellness is the New Golf

  • Wellness, including yoga, is now a top inclusion for incentive planners as CSR initiatives drop slightly in popularity.
  • Over two-thirds of corporate users include meetings in their incentive programs (heavily weighted towards finance sector); less than a third of incentive agencies do.  

This important research project would not have been possible without the support of the following sponsors:

  • Champion Level:  Accor Hotels
  • Prime Level: Caesars Entertainment, MotivAction, Paradisus by Meliá
  • Principal Level: Eco Destination Management Services, Hilton, IMEX Group, Peerless Performance

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