In the first of a regular series of articles, CEO of SITE Didier Scalliet tells CMW about a new study from the association, which shows incentive travel is in rude health.
At IMEX America (16-18 October) we launched the latest research into the State of the Incentive Travel Nation. Partnering with Incentive Research Foundation (IRF) and Financial & Insurance Conference Professionals (FICP) – two organisations with a huge focus on incentive travel, we produced the biggest research project ever conducted on incentive travel, by volume and geographical spread. And it’s a good news story with results demonstrating unequivocally that incentive travel, globally, is in rude health, continuing to thrive and grow.
Conducted in association with J.D. Power, the study 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, including Uganda, Ukraine, Uruguay and US Virgin Islands, it’s the largest survey ever conducted of senior players in the incentive travel industry, doubling responses from past individual efforts.
Survey respondents were balanced between incentive travel buyers and suppliers, with buyers representing incentive agencies and corporate users, while more than half of the sellers are DMCs.
The majority are industry professionals with almost 20 years’ experience and, lest we be accused of being USA-centric, let me highlight that over half of the responses came from outside the US with just under 20% from Asia alone.
For 2018 we increased the number of corporate end-user respondents by a staggering 80% and of these, 40% were from the financial and insurance industry, traditionally a big user of incentive travel.
While the survey findings show that incentive travel is on the rise, growth isn’t happening unchecked. For instance, costs to operate an incentive travel programme 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. Here are my five takeaways from the study:
Budgets for 2018 are up
• Over half (54%) of buyers report an increase in budgets year over year with the median per person spend remaining stable at US$4,000. Corporate users report a higher median spend ($4,550) versus incentive agencies ($3,500).
More qualifiers than ever
• Sixty-five percent (65%) of buyers are increasing the number of incentive programme qualifiers, fuelled by company growth and optimism in the economy.
Incentives as a builder of workplace culture
• Sales and profitability remain the top reasons to run an incentive programme, but more importance is being given to building relationships between management and employees, increasing productivity and employee engagement.
• Almost 70% of buyers say their programmes are effective at achieving business objectives. However, only a quarter always measure ROI/ROO (return on objective), with more than
50% saying such measurements are not required.
Increase in use of all-inclusive destinations
• 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.
• Fam trips and hosted buyer meetings are the primary sources buyers use to learn about a destination.
Wellness is the new golf
• 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 programmes (heavily weighted towards finance sector); less than a third of incentive agencies do.