Ever since September 11, industry pundits and pollsters have been busy trying to figure out what the future holds for business and meeting travel. One survey after another has shown that companies are cutting back on travel, and many industry observers have speculated that fear of flying will diminish the effectiveness of travel incentive programs.

But ours is the only survey we know of that queried the sales agents and brokers who qualify for incentive trips. And here's the surprising news: Even when the terrorist acts of September 11 were just a few months old, the vast majority of your top producers were ready and willing to travel for an incentive program.

Of course, just a willingness to travel won't motivate producers to qualify for your incentive trips. If you want to keep them as loyal, repeat qualifiers, you have to win them over with destinations and activities geared to their personal preferences. In marketing lingo, that means targeting not only their demographic profile — which has gotten younger and includes more women than our last agent survey two years ago — but also their psychographic profile.

Here's where our survey results (page 40) suggest a shift from years past. Perhaps in response to September 11, producers crave the comfort of camaraderie and a retreat for body and spirit more than ever. Of the 303 respondents, 171 chose spa treatments as an activity they wanted during an incentive trip — beating golf by 83 votes! And unlike our last survey, more respondents put group travel at the top of their list of preferred incentive rewards than individual travel.

Of course, traveling to an all-expenses-paid incentive conference at a world-class resort is one thing, and traveling to attend a required continuing education class for state agent certification is another. There may be times when it makes sense to offer your producers online options for CE. Check out “E-Learning for Agents” on page 8 to find out how some organizations manage both classroom and online courses.

Curious if e-conferencing would work for any of your meetings? Go to page 48 for a definition of terms and an overview of what's available in the burgeoning virtual meeting market.

Enjoy the issue.

P.S. Your vote counts! Turn to page 30 and vote for your favorite hotels and resorts. You could win a vacation for two at the Fontainebleau Hilton Resort in Miami.