A study by the Incentive Research Foundation (IRF) into destination preferences has shown that enthusiasm for incentive travel remains high.
The IRF study into the impact of destination choice on motivation has shown that the pandemic has not dampened enthusiasm for incentive travel experiences, but at least in the short term, the design of those experiences may need to change.
The IRF study included 401 respondents, and all but five of those were based in the U.S., with one respondent each from Canada, Central America, Western Europe, Southeast Asia, and Northeast Asia. Key questions included in the study asked which destinations were the most motivating, what has changed since the pandemic, and which features and activities are people seeking in their incentive travel programs.
Overall, group incentive travel awards were considered ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ motivating by 80 percent of the study’s respondents, with only two percent reporting no motivational value in group travel. While 84 percent of respondents said that individual incentive travel awards were ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ motivating, with only one percent reporting no motivational value.
The IRF data also demonstrated that there were significant shifts in the type of incentive experiences that participants wanted, coming out of the pandemic. Almost two thirds of respondents reported an increased interest in an incentive trip where you stay in a private unit that is part of a larger resort; an incentive travel experience that closely follows COVID protocols; an individual travel experience where you stay in a private vacation residence with your spouse or significant other; an incentive trip to the mountains or other remote area; or an incentive trip where you stay at a luxury hotel. While half of the participants reported a decreased interest in an incentive trip involving a cruise ship, or an incentive travel experience that involves mingling with large groups of people.
Overall, the top preferred destinations were Hawaii, the Caribbean, the Western United States (such as California), Western Europe, Alaska, and the Southern United States (such as Florida). The IRF study also included booking data provided by Cvent for incentive trips planned for the immediate future, which showed a good alignment between destination demand and participant destination preferences. Hawaii, Florida, and California were all within the ‘top’ preferred regions and are also seeing significant RFP activity. Booking data for cruise was provided by 3D Cruise Partners, and showed that European River and Mediterranean cruises accounted for 57 percent of requested quotes so far in 2021.
Top priorities for destination experiences reported by participants in the IRF study were beach/sunshine, adventure travel and mountains. While the top three elements of a highly motivating incentive trip were reported as being able to bring a spouse or significant other, going to an appealing destination, and having additional expenses covered by an all-inclusive package or similar.