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Feature Story

October 2019

Preliminary Findings Released for 2019 Incentive Travel Industry Index

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The Incentive Research Foundation (IRF), Society for Incentive Travel Excellence (SITE), and Financial and Insurance Conference Professionals (FICP), along with research partner Oxford Economics, announced the release of the second joint study of the global incentive travel industry. "Incentive Travel Industry Index" powered by SITE Index, IRF Outlook and FICP is the largest-ever survey undertaken into the incentive travel industry, achieving an unprecedented number of submissions from five categories of incentive travel professionals.

Survey findings show further increases over 2018 in per-person investment, with hotel spend and not airline costs—the outlier in 2018—now capturing the majority of the spend. Destination infrastructure (i.e., hotels) is also the top consideration in destination selection, relegating destination appeal into third position, after safety.

Key insights include:

  • Incentive travel is about going to a new place, crossing a barrier together, experiencing a new culture.
  • North American buyers showed favorable interest in Oceania, Southeast Asia and Central America, with a net increase of approximately 9% to 12% more buyers expected to make increased use of those destinations over the next two years.
  • A stronger focus on soft power is boosting the role of incentive travel as a builder of corporate culture and engagement.
  • Senior management values program effects on participants and return on objectives, in addition to measures of ROI.
  • The importance of impacts to workplace relations and company culture stands out.
  • Cost factors are the most important drivers of increases in spending per person.
  • In competing for incentive travel business, suppliers recognize the importance of compelling experiences, delivered with seamless service quality.
  • Destination management companies (DMCs) anticipate buyers will increasingly contract directly with suppliers, bypassing DMCs as intermediaries.
  • Sector participants referenced the focus on company culture and sustainability as key positive factors impacting programs planned for 2020 and 2021.
  • Challenges around safety, security and marketplace uncertainty were the most important negative factors.
  • Experiencing the destination and building relationships through meals remain top-rated items for successful incentive travel programs.
  • Wellness, sustainability and flexible activities will gain prevalence.
  • Golf and other competitive sports will recede further.
  • Mandated events and team-building events will become slightly less common.
  • Western Europe and Central America are the top long-haul destinations used by North American buyers.