Incentive Travel Spending to Grow in 2015

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Caribbean, Incentive Research Foundation
The Caribbean is the top choice for planners taking incentive programs outside the U.S. (Photo by Steve Jurvetson)
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Based on its recent pulse surveys, the Incentive Research Foundation forecasts a strong 2015 for incentive travel. Following are 5 upward trends:

1) The economy is having less impact on incentives

In the beginning of 2009, 86% of respondents to an IRF pulse survey reported that the economy was having a negative impact on their incentive travel programs. By this fall, only 15% responded that way. In fact, 67% said the economy was having a positive impact on their incentive programs and 19% were neutral.

2) Budgets are on the rise

Late 2010 saw the first signs of recovery, as more planners began to increase budgets than decrease them (44% vs. 24% respectively). Since 2011, budgets have increased precipitously, with 2014 showing the strongest growth to date. Almost half of planners this fall said they would increase their budgets, and only 10% said they would decrease them in 2015.

3) Per-person spending is increasing

Per-person spend is also up to an average of $3,440, and more than a quarter of pulse survey respondents said their budgets would exceed $4,000 per person. More corporate buyers (30%) than incentive houses (23%) noted that their budgets would exceed $4,000 per person heading into 2015.

4) International incentive travel is on the rebound

At the height of the recession, 45% of planners were moving their programs from international to domestic locations., and long-haul travel became rare. This trend shifted in the spring of 2014 when IRF research showed more planners taking their programs international from domestic (15%) than bringing their international programs back to domestic destinations (10%). The top choices are the Caribbean, followed by Europe (more than half of incentive houses reported planning programs in Europe). Between 10 and 20% of planners said they would be using Central America, South America or Asia.

 5) Group size and trip lengths remain steady
In 2009 and 2010, planners needed to find ways to create motivating trips with the same or smaller budgets, and often cut the size and duration of their programs—a tactic used by more than half of respondents in the height of the recession. In the fall of 2014, that number had shrunken to less than 10%. However, fewer than 10% reported increasing the number of days of their programs.

To see the full study, visit the IRF web site.

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Barbara Scofidio
Barbara Scofidio is editor of Prevue and heads up the Visionary Summits, our exclusive conference series targeting senior-level meeting and incentive planners. In 25 years of covering the industry, her articles have spanned topics ranging from social media to strategic meetings management. She is currently the media liaison for FICP's Education Committee and was the first member of the media ever to be invited to sit on a committee by GBTA, where she spent three years on the Groups and Meetings Committee. She has also been an active member of Site, chairing its Crystal Awards committee and acting as a judge. A familiar face at industry events, Barbara often leads panel discussions or speaks on topics close to her heart, such as green meetings or how the industry can help combat human trafficking. Barbara is based outside Boston, in Groton, Mass.

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