A new study by the Incentive Research Foundation (IRF), Rebounding the Recession: The Future of Incentive Travel 2015, reveals that incentive travel rewards match the emerging needs of today’s multi-generational workforce and the corporate move toward enterprise engagement.
Ten highlights from the study that discuss various drivers behind this conclusion are:
- Shaking Off a Bad Economy: Current indicators show the $22.5 billion incentive travel industry is primed to grow. IRF Pulse Surveys show that the percentage of planners who feel that the economy is having a negative impact on incentive travel programs has fallen from 89% in 2009 to 15% in the fall of 2014.
- Budgets Trending Up: At the height of the recession in late 2009, Pulse Surveys showed more than 80% of planners decreasingly their incentive travel budgets either moderately or significantly, with virtually zero growth from any side of the market. Fall 2014 research showed 50% of planners increasing their budgets, with a quarter maintaining budgets of $4,000+ per person heading into 2015.
- International Programs Rebound: In late 2009, IRF research showed 45% of travel planners moving their programs from international to domestic locations. Only 10% reported shifting from domestic programs to those abroad. However IRF’s spring 2014 research showed more planners taking their programs international than bringing them back domestically, for the first time since the start of the recession.
- Fewer Cutbacks: As late as spring 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.
- More Emphasis on “Self-Defining” Experiences: Today’s planners will be challenged to create places and spaces that create self-defining experiences for multiple demographic groups with varied interests and needs.
- An App for Everything: The proliferation of travel apps has driven program attendees to take more and more control of their experience—with or without the help of planners.
- Wellness Winding Up: In-room yoga, healthy menus, readily-available spa water and nice gyms are commonplace and no longer suffice for “wellness.” Differentiation in the wellness market requires more significant investments into alternative spa treatments, exotic menus and unexpected treatments.
- Disruption as a Constant: Hurricanes, volcanoes, disease, terrorists, unpredictable currencies, political fluctuations—the need of disaster planning becomes more essential and frequent.
- Recruiting, Retention and Rewards: The foremost investment focus for most CEOs today isn’t marketing or R&D, but talent. Eighty-one percent of CEOs said they were concentrating on talent—an emphasis rivaled only by technology investment. This new motivational mindset meshes perfectly with the recent resurgence in noncash rewards and recognition programs, particularly incentive travel programs, as a primary tool in transferring best practices from top employees to up-and-comers.
- Engaged in What?: Building fully-engaged workforces is a key concern for employers today. Engagement as a concept was originally meant to engage a workforce in their core job role. Today, successful organizations need their employees to perform many non-core job roles, such as trainer, brand advocate, innovator and change agent. Reward and recognition programs are more flexible than standard compensation systems and have a long history of agile implementation driving non-core job roles.
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