“Never before have three associations, all with a focus on incentive travel, come together to release a pan-industry study of the global incentive travel sector. It’s the biggest research project ever conducted on incentive travel, by volume and geographical spread, and the results demonstrate unequivocally that our industry is continuing to thrive and grow.”

So said SITE CEO Didier Scaillet CIS, CITP when introducing the brand new, joint initiative in collaboration along with Incentive Research Foundation (IRF) and Financial and Insurance Conference Professionals (FICP), an association of corporate meeting planners. This highly anticipated study is a landmark for the incentive travel industry, providing unprecedented, consolidated insights into the current state and where it is headed.

Conducted in association with J.D. Power, the Incentive Travel Industry Index 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 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 (70%) and corporate users (30%), 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.

Key highlights from the study include:

  • 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).
  • Sixty-five percent (65%) of buyers are increasing the number of incentive program qualifiers, fueled by company growth and optimism in the economy.
  • 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.  
  • 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.
  • The industry has moved way beyond the AIG Factor as most incentive travel professionals believe that the current perception of incentive travel is better than it was in 2008.
  • 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 safety and value for money.
  • Fam trips and hosted buyer meetings are the primary sources buyers use to learn about a new destination 
  • 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) while less than a third of incentive agencies do.  

The full study will be released during IMEX America in Las Vegas. Leaders from SITE, IRF and FICP will present an insightful and intelligent deep-dive into the Index findings during a session on Smart Monday at 11:15am.  The session will also be streamed live on the SITE FaceBook page.