When asked what impact the economy would have in the coming year on their ability to plan and implement incentive travel programs, only 38 percent of the 246 respondents to the latest Pulse Survey by the Incentive Research Foundation said it would have a positive impact, versus 60 percent in March. Just over one-third of respondents—36 percent—said the economy would have a negative impact, up from 22 percent in the spring.
In fact, one-fifth of respondents are expecting cuts in their incentive travel budgets, according to the survey. Forty-eight percent expect them to remain the same and 31 percent expect a slight increase.
How exactly are incentive travel affected when budgets are tightened? Sixteen percent of the incentive buyers and suppliers surveyed said programs will be moved from international to domestic destinations and 15 percent said destinations will be closer to home. (That 16 percent response is far less than in 2010, however, when 42 percent of respondents were planning to move their trips from overseas to domestic destinations.)
Other changes made to the trips include decreasing the number of on-site inclusions per participants (21 percent of respondents), and decreasing the length of the trips (21 percent) and the number of room nights (18 percent).
For many companies, incentive travel remains untouched despite this slightly less positive environment. Almost half of all the respondents—45 percent—said there would be no effect on destination choices.
Interestingly, 42 percent of the total respondents are seeing slightly higher budgets for their incentive merchandise programs, and 33 percent expect growth in the value of the awards. The top incentive merchandise awards? Electronics, golf items, luggage, and housewares.