5 Takeaways From the Incentive Travel Industry Index

In October, at IMEX America in Las Vegas, Society for Incentive Travel Excellence (SITE) launched the latest research into the state of the incentive travel industry.

Partnering with Incentive Research Foundation (IRF) and Financial & Insurance Conference Professionals (FICP)—two organizations with a huge focus on incentive travel—we produced the largest research study ever conducted on incentive travel, by volume and geographical spread. More than 1,000 senior players from more than 80 countries responded to the survey, doubling responses from past individual efforts.

It’s a good news story with results demonstrating, unequivocally, that the global incentive travel industry is in very good health and will continue to thrive and grow in the coming year. Conducted in association with J.D. Power, the new Incentive Travel Industry Index is a wide-ranging analysis of business conditions, attitudes and expectations impacting the incentive travel and motivational events industry worldwide. The study provides corporate meeting and incentive planners, third party agencies and supplier necessary decision-making insights and trends to use in developing their marketing and budget plans

The responses were balanced between incentive travel buyers and suppliers, with buyers representing incentive agencies and corporate users, while more than half of the sellers were DMCs. We increased the number of corporate planner respondents by a staggering 80 percent — 40 percent of these were from the financial and insurance industry, traditionally a big user of incentive travel.

While the study shows that incentive travel is on the rise, growth isn’t happening unchecked. For instance, costs to operate an incentive travel program are going up and over two-thirds of planners are taking steps to contain costs such as less expensive destinations or use of all-inclusive resorts. And, sellers are looking to add value through creativity, innovation and partnerships.

Here are my five takeaways from the study:

Budgets for 2018 Are Up

Over half (54 percent) 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). The higher corporate spend is attributed to the large number of corporate buyers representing the financial and insurance industries.

More Qualifiers Than Ever

Sixty-five percent of buyers are increasing the number of incentive program qualifiers. There are many reasons for the growth in the number of qualifiers, from healthy economies to internal factors such as mergers and acquisitions. In a tight labor market, many companies are using incentive travel to deepen their relationships with employees.

Incentives as a Builder of Workplace Culture

While sales and profitability remain the top reasons to run an incentive program, the findings show that companies are increasing their use of incentive travel to improve engagement and strengthen employees’ identification and emotional commitment to the company. Almost 70 percent of buyers say their incentive programs are effective at achieving their business objectives and have a positive impact on future economic investment and job growth.

Increase in Use of All-Inclusive Destinations

All-inclusive destinations are on the rise as, for the fourth year in succession, buyers continue to seek cost reductions. All-inclusive properties are improving on their abilities to offer more unique experiences, i.e. locally sourced food, drinks, etc., to obtain the local experience. It’s not just about the resort anymore, but how much groups can interact with the destination to maximize their experience.

Wellness Is the New Golf

Wellness, including yoga, is now a top inclusion for incentive planners as Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives drop slightly in popularity. While overall figures for the impact and inclusion of CSR in incentive travel programs are lower, across all regions CSR and sustainability are second only to the national economy in terms of impact on planning and implementation of incentive travel programs.

For more information about the study, go to Incentive Travel Industry Index.