The Incentive Research Foundation hosted its first event, the IRF Incentive Invitational, this past weekend at the Ritz-Carlton Golf & Spa Resort, Rose Hall, in Montego Bay, Jamaica. Slots for suppliers sold out a few weeks before the two-day golf event, which attracted buyers from all of the major incentive houses, as well as incentive planners from FedEx, Motorola, Merrill Lynch, and other major corporations.

The IRF was formerly part of the Society of Incentive and Travel Executives, and was known as the SITE Foundation. It re-launched a year ago as an independent entity focused on developing academic-based research that benefits the incentive industry. This event is the major source of funding for the not-for-profit organization, and included golf at the White Witch Golf Course, a variety of tours for nongolfers, and live and silent auctions of eye-popping travel experiences around the world.

Also for the first time, the IRF brought attendees together for a roundtable discussion, where they identified the challenges they face in their jobs as well as areas of research that would be most helpful to them. "We wanted buyers to know that we really need their feedback to provide the right type of research," said Ira Almeas, president of Impact Incentives, East Hanover, N.J., and IRF president. "What we found was that people were so passionate about sharing their ideas.” In fact, IRF is considering turning the discussion into a half-day event next year.

The IRF will release the results of its biggest-ever study—an overview of the incentive market that will include standardized language and profiles of users and budgets—in September, as well as a study assessing the effect of sales incentive programs across entire companies later this year.

Overall, Almeas called the weekend "an overwhelming success" for his organization. "This was our opportunity to set our foundation for the future—and that's what we did." For a list of IRF research reports, which are free in PDF format, visit www.theirf.org—Barbara Scofidio