Meeting Mentor Magazine

June 2024

Incentive Travel on the Comeback, but Preferences and Priorities Are Shifting

New research finds that the incentive travel industry is recovering well. In fact, 91% of respondents forecast they would continue or increase their use of traditional, qualification-based incentive programs — and more than half of North American buyers believe incentive travel will fully recover by next year.

While the recently released 2022 Incentive Travel Index (ITI) reports that the incentive industry is regaining its strength, just how strong the recovery is varies by geography and market segment. But overall, four out of five respondents report that incentive travel is becoming more strategically important, especially for its ability to help companies retain valued employees and unifying an increasingly distributed workforce in the post-pandemic work world.

“We see good signs of recovery, but these signs vary. While 67% of North American buyers reported they have resumed international incentive travel, only 50% of buyers from the rest of the world are back to traveling internationally,” said SITE Foundation’s President, Kevin Regan, MBA, CIS. “From a verticals perspective, the 2022 ITI study is forecasting positive growth over 2019 for the Finance & Insurance and ICT sectors, but Pharma, Auto and Direct Selling are forecasting static or negative growth.”

Incentive planners are reporting an increased interest in new destinations. However, with the top site selection criteria being value for the money, cited by 98%, followed by safety, which was key for 87%, more than half of North American respondents said they planned to keep their programs in the U.S., followed closely by the Caribbean and Mexico. However, 67% said they had already resumed their incentive programs in international locales.

“The desire to travel to new destinations has increased for North American buyers, while the rest of the world indicated they will select destinations closer to home,” said Financial & Insurance Conference Professionals (FICP) Executive Director Steve Bova, CAE. “When it comes to destinations themselves, North American respondents’ preference for domestic and Caribbean destinations are up, with most stating that they will use these destinations more in the coming year than they did in 2019.”

The 41-page Incentive Travel Index, a joint initiative of Financial & Insurance Conference Professionals (FICP), the Incentive Research Foundation (IRF) and the Foundation of the Society for Incentive Travel Excellence (SITE Foundation), undertaken in partnership with Oxford Economics, also found that program design is continuing to evolve. The survey of 1,417 incentive travel professionals took place last spring.

“We can clearly see shifting preferences impacting program inclusions as a more diverse workforce become qualifiers. For example, we saw wellness emerge as a key program activity,” said Incentive Research Foundation (IRF) President Stephanie Harris. “While activities that promote relationships was the top choice across the industry, we see some interesting differences across regions. A key difference is that sustainability and CSR opportunities were considered more important by industry professionals outside of North America.”

Among the top challenges incentive buyers anticipate facing in the near future were:

• Rising costs and inflation (80%)
• Attracting and retaining talent (66%)
• New expectations regarding contract management (64%)
• Uncertainty and short-term planning (63%)
• Loss of industry knowledge due to staff departures (62%)
• International instability (53%)

For additional key findings from the 2022 Incentive Travel Index study as well as reports from previous years, visit


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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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