Incentive Qualifiers Rank Group Trips as Top Motivator in IRF Study

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Group incentive travel remains highly motivating for attendees, says new IRF study.Results of IRF’s 2024 attendee preferences survey reveal the most popular travel destinations and program design preferences.

The motivation of group incentive travel doesn’t get old. That’s evidenced by the results of IRF’s 4th consecutive Attendee Preferences for Incentive Travel: How the Right Destinations and Good Program Design Boost Employee Motivation. For the third year in a row, 91 percent of respondents described a group incentive travel experience in an appealing destination as very or extremely motivating.

The study explores trends in attendee preferences, factors in destination selection and how incentive travel program design can impact employee motivation.“The motivational impact of incentive award travel remains high, and attendees find appeal in a broad array of destinations, program attributes and trip features,” said Stephanie Harris, IRF President. “The insights provided by attendees will ensure incentive planners can feel confident in designing programs that capture the interest and enthusiasm of their attendees while balancing their budgetary and business realities.”

Conducted in March, 2024, the study sample included 400 respondents employed full-time in a sales role. Participants were 23 to 65 years of age and eligible for an incentive travel award within the past three years. Seventy-two percent reported that they had won an incentive travel award in that time period. There were also participants who had previously visited a popular destination in order to access their interest in recommending and returning.

Destination Takeaways

•  2024’s top North American destinations preferred by qualified employees included past favorites such as Hawaii, Las Vegas and Florida. Preferred international destinations were Western Europe including Germany, France and Italy and Central America including Costa Rica and Panama.

• Respondents who have previously been on group incentives to Central America, Western Europe, Hawaii and the Caribbean cited a high interest in returning for leisure and a high likelihood to  recommend those destinations for incentive travel awards.

• The popularity of cruising continues to grow after the pandemic-related declines. Seventy-five percent of respondents say cruises are desirable regardless of destination, and improved perceptions of safety and comfort have driven up cruising appeal.

• Qualifiers continue to enjoy beach and sunshine destinations that provide them much-appreciated opportunities for relaxing downtime. This aligns with booking data indicating a critical mass of programs focusing on Mexico and the Caribbean.

Motivation Takeaways

• Gen Z and Millennials are the age groups most highly motivated by incentive travel.

• Eighty-five percent of respondents cited ample free time as the most important driver of a positive incentive experience. The interest in unstructured time and relaxation have remained a top priority year over year in the IRF study. Eighty-one percent of respondents chose the ability to relax and disconnect as an appealing feature of incentive trip activities.

•The opportunity to have unique experiences came in second as a positive incentive trip driver, cited by 81 percent of respondents. Eighty percent of respondents cited luxury accommodations and experiences, up from 72 percent in 2023.

• An appealing destination, ability to invite a guest and all-inclusive trips were the top three motivating factors in trip design.

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