NOW IN ITS SIXTH YEAR, the Incentive Travel Index is a collaboration between the Incentive Research Foundation and the Society for Incentive Travel Excellence (SITE) Foundation. With research partner Oxford Economics, the organizations provide an annual report on the state of incentive travel.
Gisele Robert, SITE Canada president and senior international business development manager, Meetings & Conventions Prince Edward Island, notes a couple of interesting highlights from this year’s survey. Most notably, the shift in favour of soft power benefits (company culture, relationships and overall performance), as opposed to hard power (individual sales performance) benefits usually associated with incentive travel.
The days of sales being the only arbiter of success is changing, says Roberts, “now a company’s focus is more about relationship building, teambuilding, reinforcing the company culture and rewarding the entire staff.”
Sean Hoff, founder and managing partner of Moniker, a creative corporate culture agency, based in Toronto, says a majority of his clients work in the tech sector and their workforce is mostly remote. They take the entire company team on corporate retreats because, for the most part, they are uniting remote or hybrid teams spread across the world.
Roberts was elated with the statistics about destination choice for North American buyers. “I was pleasantly surprised to see that 71% of buyers would consider destinations they had not used before, and that Canada was ranked #1 on the list, ahead of Alaska and cruise lines.” She adds, “when I’m meeting with buyers as a DMO, we place Atlantic Canada as an emerging destination, as tier-one destinations may have availability issues or costs may be higher than in Atlantic Canada.”
Overall, Roberts notes that incentive travel is still in a seller’s market. “People on the planning side says it takes longer to find space availability on preferred dates, and rising costs mean it takes a lot more effort on the planner’s side of the equation to make things happen. We‘re seeing budgets decreasing a little in last quarter, and going into 2024. For the short term, less attendees will be attending trips. Planners will need to cut costs.”
“Group sizes are staying the same or getting smaller due to monetary constraints,” says Hoff.
“We did notice a fall in group sizes this year, about a 20% across-the-board drop, in line with the layoffs we are hearing about in the tech sector.”
For Hoff, destinations for his groups have fluctuated wildly since the pandemic. “For the most part, our clients choose a destination usually four to six months out, or a year at the most. Something we’ve picked up on is about a 50/50 split—staying close to home or venturing halfway around the world. Post COVID, there was massive interest in staying close to home, passports had expired and half were not renewed in time. In 2022, the flood gates were released and we took groups to Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.”
AT A GLANCE
- The Incentive Travel Index
- 2,464 Respondents
- 1,648 Complete Survey Responses
- 933 Buyers Across 19 Industries
- 83 Countries Represeted
- Survey period May to July 2023
CLOSER TO HOME
Buyers report trips within close proximity to home base is important
DESTINATIONS MOST USED BY NORTH AMERICAN RESPONDENTS
Caribbean, Mexico, Western Europe
DESTINATIONS UNDER CONSIDERATION
Oceania, Alaska, South Asia
- 68% Agree that company executives increasingly recognize that incentive travel is a key part of future workforce strategy
- 68% Agree that incentive travel was previously used to motivate individual performance (hard power) but now it’s mostly about company culture, relationships and overall performance (soft power)
The delivery of an incentive travel program is more challenging than ever:
- 85% Agree that higher costs and reduced airlift/hotel availability is making it more difficult to satisfy senior leadership/decision makers
- 84% Agree that the capabilities of experienced incentive travel organizers have never been more valuable
- 75% Agree that planning and delivering incentive travel experiences has become more challenging
Article originally published in Ignite Magazine Winter 2023/2024 Issue by writer, Sandra Eagle. Visit ignitemag.ca for more industry insights and resources.