In a recent survey conducted by the Incentive Research Foundation (IRF), a number of trends have been identified within the travel and incentives industry over 2012 which has implications for the year 2013. The survey was via online submissions and included representatives of incentive providers, suppliers to the industry and corporate incentive travel buyers.
The survey findings indicate that trends in the incentive travel market have stabilized compared to previous survey periods for what were seen as the “core issues” for Incentive Travel Programs, Merchandise Non-Cash Programs and ROI Budget Considerations. According to IRF, respondents were comprised of 57.3% Buyers (Corporate planner, Incentive Company, Program Manager), 33.7% Suppliers (i.e./ Hotel, Airline, DMC, Brand/Merchandise) and those not directly involved in incentive programs (8.9%).
Impact of Economy on Planning and Implementing Incentive Travel Programs
Respondents indicate they are less optimistic and consider the economy as having a less of a positive impact on their ability to plan and implement incentive travel programs.
(All positive 36% September 2012 vs. 60% March 2012)
(All negative impacts 22% March 2012 vs. 36% September 2012)
Perceived Impact of Current Air Transportation on Incentive Travel Programs
Most respondents (63%) have a negative perception of the current Air Transportation Environment and it’s impact on incentive travel plans. (Significantly negative- 12% March 2012 vs. 13% September 2012.) (All negative perception- 71% March 2012 vs. 63% September 2012.) Respondents indicated that about half would only be offering only tickets as part of a travel incentive would be provided and that hat proportion would be reduced.
With Regards To Incentive Travel Program Destinations, most respondents (45%) anticipate no change to planned program destinations for Incentive Travel Programs in the coming year. However, a significat proportion (16%) indicate that they anticipate a change from “International to Domestic” with regards to the travel program destinations and that a similar proportion would begin focusing on locations closer to home with regards to the travel program destinations.
Incentive Travel Accommodations
There were significant changes in accommodation planning measures in coming year.
Almost a quarter of respondents anticipated reducing “On-Site inclusions per participant” for the accommodations portion of Incentive Travel Programs. While 27% indicate “No Change”, 21% indicate the total number of days/nights will be reduced, and interestingly 18% indicate that a reduction in the number of rooms would be considered, while 12% indicate a change to “all inclusive” pricing options. However, there appears to be a more optimistic view to incentive travel bookings.
Purchasing of Travel Incentive Programs
Most of the respondents (44%) anticipate there would be no change in purchasing for Incentive Travel Programs in the coming year, while 51% responded that procurement involvement will increase by some degree in the coming year compared to 38% who indicate that procurement and purchasing involvement will “Slightly Increase” in the coming year.
Incentive Travel Program Budgets
Almost half (48%) of respondents agree that the anticipated budgets for Incentive Travel Programs would “Remain Unchanged” for the coming year compared to 21% who indicated that budgets for Incentive Travel Programs will decrease by some degree in the coming year. Interestingly, the majority of the respondents(73%) do not anticipate changing from “group trips” to “individual travel packages” in the coming year.
Geographic Region or Destinations for Incentive Travel
Over half of respondents indicated that North America was their chosen region for Incentive Travel Destination programs and other top destinations included, The Caribbean (46%), Europe (41%) and Central America (16%). However this may be influenced by the survey comprising of a significant proportion of respondents from USA.
Implement Merchandise Non-Cash Incentives
Respondents over 50%, continue to anticipate an increase in their ability to plan and implement merchandise non-cash incentive programs. There was a significant increase in the expectation in increased merchandise awards in the coming year. Most concentrated on included individual travel, use of debit/prepaid gift cards and merchandise or experience-related (event tickets, etc.). A majority of the respondents indicate they use a points based system Non-Cash Incentive program(s) and that their budgets slightly increase.
Impact on Incentive Programs to Economic Conditions
Over half of respondents anticipate no changes to the budget for Incentive Programs in the coming year as a result of the recent economic conditions. However about 18% each indicated that between they had either had their budgets reduced or increased but interestingly, only 1% had their programs cut totally.
General Perceptions for the Future
Most respondents (54%) perceive “The Economy” to be either Slightly or Extremely positive in the coming year while about 29% of the respondents also indicate a “negative” perception of the economy in the coming year.