Meeting Mentor Magazine

June 2023

IRF Survey on Meetings and Wellness:
Budgets Don’t Reflect Interest

Few trends are bigger than the wellness trend. According to research from the Global Wellness Institute, the global wellness industry grew from a $3.36 trillion market in 2013 to $3.72 trillion in 2015. No longer confined to the realm of one’s personal life, the desire to embrace health and wellness increasingly is part of our business culture, including the business of meetings.

At hotels, wellness has broken out of the gym or the spa into guest rooms, hotel lobbies, meeting rooms, and even the hotel bar, where healthy cocktails can be found on the menu of drinks. Wellness has become an all-encompassing offering for group travelers, and planners are working to devise ever more creative ways to meet these demands.

But a recent survey by Incentive Research Foundation (IRF) shows some disconnects between desire for healthier meetings and actually implementing them. The IRF Wellness in Meetings and Incentive Travel Study surveyed of 109 meeting planners (a mix of corporate and incentive travel companies/third party planning companies) and 34 hoteliers. Some key findings:

° While 47 percent of corporate planners “strongly agree” that wellness is a critical focus for their companies, only 15 percent “strongly agree” that their company budgets for healthy meetings.

° A similar disconnect found among respondents who were incentive/meeting company planners. Although 97 percent of respondents personally enthusiastic about wellness and almost three quarters agree its a critical focus for their clients, less than 50 percent connect their corporate wellness to meeting strategy and design.

“Each year companies in the United States invest billions of dollars to both help their employees get healthier and additional billions to help them meet face to face,” said IRF President Melissa Van Dyke. “The research featured in The IRF Wellness in Meetings and Incentive Travel Study leads us to question how integrated these efforts within organizations are — and what the meetings and incentives industry could do to create better synergies.”

Among the survey’s other findings:

• The top standard preferred food & beverage wellness inclusions for meetings and events were healthy snacks (83%), water and reduced calorie drinks (82%), and fish, chicken and lean meats (80%).
• Smoke-free facilities (90%) and free access to fitness facilities (80%) were the top-ranked standard or preferred meeting design elements supporting wellness.
• Offering water and reduced calorie drinks as the default (77%) had the lowest expected impact on F&B budgets.
• Emerging wellness practices include “mindfulness breaks or resources” and “guides to nearby health facilities.”
• Although 91 percent of corporate planners agree they are personally enthusiastic about sustainability, roughly half or less agree their companies emphasize or budget funds for sustainable meetings. — Regina McGee

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About ConferenceDirect
ConferenceDirect is a global meetings solutions company offering site selection/contract negotiation, conference management, housing & registration services, mobile app technology and strategic meetings management solutions. It provides expertise to 4,400+ associations, corporations, and sporting authorities through our 400+ global associates.

About MeetingMentor
MeetingMentor, is a business journal for senior meeting planners that is distributed in print and digital editions to the clients, prospects, and associates of ConferenceDirect, which handles over 13,000 worldwide meetings, conventions, and incentives annually.

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