International Perspectives on Incentive Destination Selection

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A group of international incentives buyers from Europe and Canada met in Palm Beach to discuss the state of international incentives for an IRF/Palm Beach sponsored study.
Focus group participants in the grand lobby of The Breakers Palm Beach.

The IRF, in partnership with The Palm Beaches, brought together a group of European and Canadian incentive travel buyers to discuss the state of international incentives.

What are the most important site selection considerations for international incentive buyers? This spring, The Incentive Research Foundation (IRF) and The Palm Beaches gathered a group of program owners and third party incentive house executives at The Breakers Palm Beach to find out. More than half of the group’s incentive programs take place outside of their home countries. Along with some remote participants, they shared insights on the primary drivers of their incentive destination decisions, compiled by the IRF in The State of International Incentives report.

“European and Canadian buyers are seeking out destinations that offer unique luxury experiences,” said Stephanie Harris, IRF President. “They also have a desire to work alongside hotels, CVBs, DMCs, and vendors who can help them navigate regional business practices and adapt to European or Canadian attendee preferences.”

State of International Incentives Takeaways

Among the report’s insights:

• Budget challenges were cited as a  big concern, with budget increases often not enough to keep up with program costs. As budgets create a demand to do more with less, destinations that have the ability to tell a deep, rich story and immerse attendees in the destination without elaborate and expensive build-outs have an advantage in the current economy.

•Some budget challenges can be offset with tax rebates, with buyers citing Canada, Dublin, and Abu Dhabi as examples.

• Overall, the single biggest budget concern was airfare. Aside from ticket pricing, participants cited increasingly frequent schedule changes due to weather that cause attendee anxiety and impact budgets. Air travel was also an area that had high impact on destination choice.

• Long-haul incentives require consideration of time and cost limitations, as well as a discussion of sustainability concerns related to long-haul flights.

• For both budget and experiential reasons, buyers said they are looking for new North American destinations beyond New York, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas. The group’s Palm Beach, Florida, meeting destination defied expectations and was full of surprises.

• Buyers find it difficult to budget for US programs because there are so many additional fees in the proposals versus providing tax-inclusive and service-inclusive pricing.

• European buyers cited the US as an expensive destination, although adding that many US destinations provide a valuable experience and motivational impact.

• The tipping culture in some countries is a bit off-putting and confusing, particularly for the Europeans.

• Canadian and European organizations certainly want to talk about sustainability more than in the US, but in a similar fashion, cost is typically the driver in the end.

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