According to a recent incentive trends survey conducted by& Incentives (sister magazine to Financial & Insurance Meetings), budgets and per-person spending are up, while group size is shrinking.
Fifty-six percent of the respondents — 147 senior-level executives who have decision-making responsibilities for their companies' incentive programs — increased their incentive budgets last year, and 44 percent expect their budgets will be higher in 2007 than they were in 2006.
Per-person budgets grew 9 percent from 2005 to 2006, with companies spending an average of $3,400. Nearly one-quarter of survey respondents reported per-person budgets of $5,000 or more; just 15 percent spent less than $2,000.
The biggest shift, however, was in group size: An average of 108 people qualified for respondents' most recent major group travel incentive, fewer than half the number reported in last year's survey. It appears that companies are cutting the size of their groups while maintaining the quality of the incentive experience: Thirty-seven percent reported reducing the number of qualifiers when budgets shrink.
As for destinations, warm weather locales in the U.S., such as Hawaii and Florida, remain favorites. A full 72 percent of respondents also use offshore destinations annually or biannually. Central and South America joined the list of popular international incentive choices, most likely due in part to the huge popularity of Costa Rica among winners.
The survey also asked about the growing influence of procurement, strategic meeting management, and Sarbanes-Oxley — and found all three are clearly beginning to shape site decisions. One-third of respondents said their jobs have been affected by Sarbanes-Oxley, and 20 percent now must go through their directors of procurement when making incentive destination decisions. Most significant, half of all respondents now have a strategic meeting management professional in place to govern hotel site selection and to maximize spend.