“Food tourism” and the gamification of meetings are trending topics in the industry, says Melissa Van Dyke, president of the Incentive Research Foundation (IRF).
Q: Are there any new meeting trends making their mark this year?
A: As incentive travel finds its legs again in the new economy, the IRF is continuing to track a number of trends. Budgets are stabilizing, and in certain sectors, increasing. Gamification of the entire event experience is growing—our studies show a third of planners now integrate some form of gaming and/or virtual elements into their programs.
“Food tourism” is also becoming a stand alone offering. Some organizations now specialize in helping travelers learn more about food through travel and local culinary experiences. Last year, our Mexican cooking school was one of our most sought-after activities. Finally, wellness continues to be a hot topic for both baby boomers and millennials. In our last survey, 62 percent of respondents said they are either concerned about wellness as a part of their programs, are reviewing how to incorporate it or are integrating wellness into their programs.
Q: What’s on the agenda for the IRF’s 21st Annual Invitational event?
A: This event is shaping up to be our strongest to date. Not only are we hosted by the brand-new, Secrets Puerto Los Cabos, we are set to have our most robust education, auction and golf experiences ever. Education day will include 10 insightful discussions including Dylan Bolden from Boston Consulting Group, Michele Gielan, Founder of the Institute for Applied Positive Research and Bill Donius, author of “Thought Revolution.” Attendees will be putting their new knowledge to work over lunch in Innovation Suite discussions. We will also be gamifying the entire event and creating new ways to interact. Of course, we will still have a few surprises for our attendees during the eventing receptions and auctions.
Q: How are planners increasing ROE for clients?
A: Our February “Top 10 Trends in Incentives, Recognition and Engagement” revealed a quality over quantity mindset of incentive travel planners. Incentive travel budgets are up, but smart planners are funneling these increased investments into more robust program experiences. Our studies show that 36 percent of planners are increasing their budgets year over year—only 14 percent decreasing and less than 10 percent of planners are increasing their program’s size or duration. Savvy planners are funneling these resources into the non-meal components of their programs such as including all airline fees, increasing off-site excursions and expanding merchandise gifts.