Digging Deeper into New Incentive Travel Destination Data

The Incentive Research Foundation (IRF) made headlines in late June with a new body of research on incentive travel qualifier destination preferences.

The IRF presented an excellent summary of their findings and more data online as both a white paper and reference deck. Beyond just the obvious takeaways, here are several other data points for incentive travel professionals to keep top of mind.

Consider the data source

A caveat before jumping into this data: as rich and robust as it is, the IRF focused solely on surveying American qualifiers in sales roles.

We’re excited to see how we’ll be able to expand on the insights here through the joint Incentive Travel Index (ITI) work we’re doing this summer with the IRF, FICP, and Oxford Economics (and want to hear from more professionals outside of North America!).

SITE Foundation research debuting this fall also highlights the challenge leaders face in expanding incentive travel programs outside of sales teams — with leaders learning from past lukewarm strategies for expanding programs, and curious about how to design fair qualification schemes. This is another compelling research pathway to consider venturing down in future months and years.

But onto the data at hand!

Will domestic appetites remain?

Determining where people feel comfortable going is a question we’re all raising. Coming out of the worst of the pandemic, we’ve seen US travelers trend domestic, preferring US destinations (including Hawaii) and/or the Caribbean.

The IRF speculated this could be attributed at least in part to safety concerns. But with testing re-entry requirements now lifted and the US facing its own turbulent socio-political challenges that have escalated since this research was conducted in spring 2022, this might be changing — only time can truly tell here.

Still, the data doesn’t lie with where US incentive qualifiers want to go.

irf chart

Regions that we know have so much potential — much of Africa, Asia, and what the IRF labels “Emerging Europe” — were ranked lowest by this year’s survey cohort.

As a truly global community, we’re excited to shine a light on the efforts of our chapters in those areas, and to support their work to (responsibility and sustainably) build up their incentive offerings, too!

To my SITE Minnesota and SITE Midwest friends…

My hometown crew(s) have some work to do, too. The Midwest was the only US region also ranking in the bottom half of preferred destinations above.

I’m biased, of course, coming from the land of Prince, Bob Dylan, and “Duck Duck Gray Duck” (vastly superior to Duck, Duck Goose), but the Midwest is a region chock-full of incentive potential, especially if domestic appetites remain strong.

Vibrant Midwest cities, relaxing lakeside retreats, and hidden gems might not tick all of the boxes and preferences in this data set — but how can we showcase what we DO have, to the wider incentive travel community? 

Millennials and Gen Z ready to go

The IRF reference deck splits data down by a variety of demographic factors, including by generation.

While all survey-takers “find group incentive travel appealing to a very large extent,” Gen Z and millennial sales professionals were especially enthusiastic — with 76 percent of Gen Zers saying they found it extremely motivating, compared to 45 percent of Gen Xers.

Incentive travel with deeper purpose

Certainly one of the most intriguing parts of the IRF’s reference deck were open responses participants submitted when asked to name their top choice of incentive destination and then explain the “why” behind their answer.

As just a smattering of what people shared:

Our family was born there and I want experience it.

It’s the motherland of my people and I would like to visit.

There is no place on Earth that I prefer being (aside from my home) than in Israel — my spiritual homeland and place of belonging.

Many responses cited heritage or ancestral ties, deep cultural or spiritual interest, and strong emotional pulls (romance, for example) as the reasons driving destination selection. 

Reasoning can be more existential, too. As one participant put it, in what’s also a beautiful way to conclude this post:

Getting away from home gives you the opportunity to reflect on your life. You have the needed time and space to let your mind wander and take stock. Traveling is one of the best ways to learn more about yourself.

What did we miss, and what would you add? We’d love to hear your thoughts!

Written by

Sydney Nolan

Sydney Nolan

Marketing & Communications


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