The Incentive Research Foundation, based in St. Louis, MO., is a private not-for-profit foundation that funds research studies and develops products serving all segments of the global incentive industry. With permission, here are their Top Five Incentive Travel Trends for 2011.
1. Cautious optimism emerges
At the 2010 IRF Roundtables, approximately four in ten participants said the economy has had a slightly positive impact on their ability to plan and implement non-cash incentive (travel/merchandise) programs. Although this figure is considerably better than this time last year, optimism is rightfully tempered by the fragile and emerging state of the U.S economy.
2. Adjusting to a ‘new normal’
Fully 60 per cent of IRF roundtable participants said business seems to be settling into a new lower level of activity. Organizations are starting to adapt rather than reduce or eliminate programs. In the roundtable discussions, participants spoke of developing new ways to justify programs, reevaluating business models, and focusing only on business prospects with well-qualified potential. This includes molding travel programs to fit into budgetary constraints, which often included a reduction in qualifiers, fewer management attendees, fewer room gifts and less than five-star properties.
3. Going, going, gone global
By 2015, more than 50 per cent of Brazilians, Indians and Chinese will be considered “middle income” consumers. In January 2011, Google searches on “employee engagement” were 10 times higher in India than in the U.S., five times higher in Singapore and four times higher in South Africa. India is now ranked third in searches for “employee recognition: – just behind the U.S. and Philippines. And India was just behind the U.S. in searches for sales incentives. This shows immense promise for incentives services overseas.
4. Redefining extravagance vs. necessity
As people, we are now more sensitive to and wary of extravagance in all forms. In the IRF Roundtables, 33 per cent of participants saw a switch from international to domestic travel as well as a reduction in the length of trips.
5. Preferring experience over product
People are beginning to clamour more for experiences than products. Just over 40 per cent of roundtable participants say they expect that individual travel will increase as a result of this change in personal preference. Experience has always been a strong part of incentive travel, but now must also become more present in merchandise incentives.