Predicted trends in incentive travel indicate a positive impact on spending and new destinations for travel programs, according to a 2015 Fall Pulse Survey from Incentive Research Foundation. Based on responses from 190 industry professionals, an improved economy has helped boost next year’s outlook for incentive travel, non-cash programs and budget changes.
About 61 percent of those surveyed said that the current state of the economy has allowed them to better plan incentive travel programs, and 67 percent said they would be able to increase travel budgets for next year. But for merchandise and gift card programs, 54 percent said the economy had little effect on their decisions.
One of the biggest impacts has been to per person budgets, which are expected to jump in 2016. Thirty percent of travel professionals said budgets are estimated to be between $2,000 and $3,000 per person; 29 percent reported that $3,000 to $4,000 would be spent per person; and 36 percent said they would be able to spend more than $4,000 per person.
The Caribbean is anticipated to be a popular incentive destination for U.S. travelers next year. Half of respondents said they would choose to plan meetings on one of the islands. Overall, international destinations were looked upon more favorably—23 percent intend to plan programs abroad. Other top international destinations include Canada (40 percent), Europe (38 percent), Central America (26 percent), South America (14 percent) and Asia (10 percent).
Lead times are increasing because of additional pressure to source quality hotels for incentive travel programs. Forty-one percent of professionals book seven to 12 months ahead, and 45 percent said they book more than a year in advance due to stagnant growth in the supply of destination hotels.
Although the economy has improved, most respondents report that measuring travel programs remains important. About 72 percent measure programs annually or multiple times during the course. Only 24 percent measure at the request of management
Social media and corporate social responsibility are important components of incentive travel, largely due to interest from millennials. More than half stated that social media plays a role in their programs, and 43 percent include corporate social responsibility in some aspect.