The SITE Foundation has published its long-awaited Report on Incentive Travel in Europe using data from the Incentive Travel Industry Index (ITII) 2019.

This is a joint initiative of the Financial & Insurance Conference Professionals (FICP), Incentive Research Foundation (IRF) and our very own Society for Incentive Travel Excellence (SITE) in association with Oxford Economics.

Read it and place it in a highly-visible position either on your computer screen or on your desktop.

Over the years, our industry has faced a dearth of relevant studies and statistics, benchmarks that we could refer to, plan and work with on a regular basis and with which we could chart and compare progress and development over time and space.

This gap has now been filled, with the nuts, bolts, structures, logistics and takeaways of our unique and exceptional business being presented and elucidated in a pleasantly visual and most comprehensive manner.

Special attention is given to Europe in general and to Germany and the United Kingdom in particular, two long-established, highly-mature and substantial source markets, with many similarities but still significant differences.

It presents a detailed and insightful picture ante or before Corona of the Benefits of Incentive Travel, Growth & Management of Incentive Travel, Budget Allocation Within Programmes, Growth in Spending, Evaluating the Success of Incentive Travel, Where Suppliers Go to Find Business, Key Trends and Factors Influencing Growth, Destination & Partner Selection, Programme Design & Inclusions and The Future of Incentive Travel.

Little did the REPORT’s authors know, however, what was lying ahead!

Consider for a minute the following sobering example of what, indeed, was to come:

CTS EVENTIM Founder & CEO, Klaus-Peter Schulenberg, stated in a recent interview that:

“Concerts and Festivals will only take place once there is a vaccine” 

This is a highly significant statement from a company that organises some 8,000 concerts per annum in Germany alone, selling 250 million tickets via their online portal – a statement that could also have included the term “Incentive Travel”.

So, after reading the REPORT ON INCENTIVE TRAVEL IN EUROPE, it will be necessary to contemplate how incentive travel could develop from here on in given the uniqueness of our current circumstances.

The REPORT should serve you, your partners, suppliers and colleagues as a yardstick for pertinent new ways to re-engineer and re-create what I have termed “Incentive Travel in the New Normal” – for that is exactly the nature of the existential challenge we face at this point in our human history.

It is like starting from “GO” in a game of Monopoly!

Questions will have to be asked and answers will have to be forthcoming, moves will have to be made and critical decisions taken:

What will remain of our sector?

Will we ever return to an “Old Normal”?

What will change?

How will changes manifest themselves and for how long?

How can we adapt to change while staying relevant and solvent?

How can we assist each other?

How much physical distancing will be required at future events – in an industry where physical proximity and personal interactions have always played a significant role?

How will incentive travel programmes be run when beneficiaries might no longer be willing or allowed to fly, let alone be transferred by coaches in groups, attending immersive city walking tours, live networking events and gala dinners?

In many respects, much of this feels to me as if the wheel has come full circle. Somewhat.

Because my inaugural contact with SITE was at a packed morning lecture in March 1990 at ITB Berlin on “SITE and Individual Incentives”, presented by SITE Past-President, J.J. Gubbins, from Chicago.

In the meantime, individual incentives have become the almost exclusive preserve of major global gift voucher companies and big-name online shopping platforms, no longer of significant interest to group suppliers, CVBs, DMOs or DMCs.

Could there, however, be potential right now for a range of new and engaging “Individual Incentive Travel Programmes” that nurture a positive sense of community while fulfilling traditional incentive travel goals?

Goals such as those outlined in the REPORT ON INCENTIVE TRAVEL IN EUROPE including:

Increased individual productivity, improved employee and customer engagement, enhanced customer satisfaction, improved customer & employee retention, better relationship-building between employees & management and better relationship-building among employees.

Serving to re-boot our business as health-compliant but manageable precursors of smaller boutique- and group travel incentives?

“Back to Basics”, so to say, with ordinary local things taking on a whole new meaning once again.

Growing international incentive travel slowly but surely by taking a lead in producing meaningful and memorable individualised experiences in unpredictable times.

Defining personal moments that may not only be pivotal to societal change but also to reviving commerce and global trade.

And not only in traditional sectors such as financial & insurance, automotive, manufacturing, pharmaceuticals and ICT but also in “system-relevant” sectors such as health services and care homes, child-minding and education, public safety and emergency services.

With SITE members generating iconic and emotional experiences that rise above the routine, making participants feel rewarded, recognised, engaged, motivated and indeed happy once again – laying solid foundations for landmark transitions to post-Corona work scenarios and personal lifestyles after “Lockdown”.

Covid-19 means – as the Nobel Prize Winner, William Butler Yeats, wrote in his epic poem, Easter, 1916 – that:

All changed, changed utterly: A terrible beauty is born.

The REPORT ON INCENTIVE TRAVEL IN EUROPE teaches us about the value of adapting to circumstances and going outside the box for data, inspiration, ideas and solutions.

A key insight that emerged from the REPORT highlights how European incentive travel professionals take a holistic view of incentive travel, giving priority to intangibles such as engagement and relationship-building.

This has not disappeared and should remain a priority as we move forward, serving as a reference and stimulus for us to come together to master the Corona crisis in tandem, adopting the considered, systematic and imaginative approach taken by the REPORT’s authors.

So please stay safe, be active and remain SITEstrong!

You can download the report on Incentive Travel in Europe here.

Dr. Patrick Patridge

  • SITE Member of 30 Years!
  • SITE Jane E. Schuldt Master Motivator Award 2017
  • SITE Kevin Forde Spirit Award 2010
  • Historian, Economic Geographer
  • Tourism Marketing Communications & MICE Expert
  • Past-President SITE Germany