Corporate use of incentives in 1997 mirrors the country's upward economic trend. Thirty-six percent of Corporate Meetings & Incentives readers will spend more on incentive travel this year than they did last year, and nearly one quarter will hold more incentive programs than last year, according to our 1997 Incentive Trends Survey.

Companies that aren't growing their incentives are maintaining the status quo: 43 percent of respondents have the same incentive budgets in 1997 as in 1996, and 62 percent will hold the same number of trips this year as they did in 1996.

Other findings from the survey, published earlier this year: * Nearly half the respondents plan one to two incentive programs per year, with 16 percent planning three, and the rest planning four or more.

* Seventy percent of respondents target internal salespeople with their incentive programs, and 28 percent offer incentives to nonsales employees.

* About one third of respondents do the planning of their incentive trips, and one third have an in-house meeting planner. Twenty percent use outside incentive houses, and very few (two percent) use travel agents for meeting planning.

* The most popular destinations for domestic incentives were Florida, Las Vegas, Hawaii, Arizona, and Palm Springs, CA. The most popular international destinations were the Caribbean, Mexico, Great Britain, Italy, the Bahamas, Bermuda, and Hong Kong. Some of the more exotic locations mentioned included Egypt, Kenya, and Fiji.

* Forty-one percent of respondents have used a cruise for an incentive; 36 percent indicated they plan to do so in the future.

Survey results are based on responses from 142 senior executive readers. Corporate Meetings & Incentives will publish the results of our 1998 Incentive Trends Survey in January.