Following are the top 10 highlights from the study that discuss various drivers behind this conclusion:
Although the incentive travel industry was hit hard by the recession in 2009, current indicators show a thriving $22.5 billion industry primed to grow. IRF Pulse Surveys show that, unlike the beginning of 2009 where 86% of respondents found the economy to have a decidedly negative impact on incentive travel programs, in the fall of 2014 only 15% felt this way.
2. Budgets Trending Up
By the height of the recession in late 2009, Pulse Surveys showed over 80% of planners were decreasing their incentive travel budgets either moderately or significantly, with virtually zero growth from any side of the market. In the fall of 2014, IRF research showed 50% of planners increasing their budgets, with a quarter maintaining budgets of over $4,000 per person heading into 2015.
3. International Programs Rebound
At the height of the recession, IRF research saw as many as 45% of travel planners moving their programs from international to domestic locations. Long haul and exotic locations became increasingly rare, as fewer than 10% of travel planners shifted from domestic programs to those abroad. This trend changed in the spring of 2014, with IRF research showing (for the first time since the start of the recession) more planners taking their programs international than bringing them back domestically.
4. Fewer Cutbacks
As late as the spring of 2010, IRF research showed more than half of planners were still cutting either the number of nights for their programs or the number of requested rooms. Currently, less than 10% of planners say they would be reducing the number of nights or rooms for their programs heading into 2015.
5. More Emphasis on ‘Self-Defining’ Experiences
Today’s planners are keenly aware that incentive travel experiences go much deeper than excursions and entertaining speakers. Whether it’s balancing the needs of the spa crowd with the club crowd or creating intimate dinners with an option for exuberant behind-the-scenes meet and greets with the chef, planners will be challenged to create places and spaces that create self-defining experiences for multiple demographics.