2011 will be a transitional year for incentives. Companies will be looking for new incentive destinations for employees and sales forces who have been overworked and under-rewarded. On the merchandise side, our research found that certain items—apparel items and gift cards—have emerged as popular rewards. Our Incentive Merchandise Trends Survey, a joint effort with the Incentive Research Foundation, leaves no question that merchandise incentives are back and that the economy is recovering. Only 11 percent of respondents canceled their merchandise incentive programs in 2011, and even fewer—only 6 percent—predict their 2012 programs will be canceled.
As for budgets, the vast majority saw budgets this year that were about the same or higher than in 2010, and 15 percent are spending “moderately” to “significantly” more on merchandise this year.
Speaking of up and coming incentive destinations, I had the incredible opportunity to visit Dubai last month. Despite the unrest in the region, Dubai is stable and safe and continues to provide an unmatched incentive experience.
Dubai could not be more different from its neighbors. It really is all it was envisioned to be—a luxury wonderland with huge appeal for seasoned travelers. The pinnacle of elegance, the Burj Al Arab, offers guests airport transfers in Rolls Royces, has butler service and reception desks on each floor, and every room is a suite with its own Jacuzzi.
But the story of Dubai is not as much about its infrastructure as its hospitality community’s complete understanding of the needs of meetings and incentive travel. This is not an emerging destination—it’s already there, with DMCs like Arabian Adventures that are immersed in the industry associations, hotel companies like Jumeirah (which manages the legendary Essex House in New York City), and an extremely organized and helpful convention bureau.
At this pivotal time, as companies transition back to international incentive travel, I see great promise in this gem that Europeans have already been using for years.