Companies are definitely moving forward with their 2002 incentive trips, according to an informal survey conducted at the Meetings Group booth at the IT&ME Show, held October 9 to 11. Ninety-one percent of respondents said they were still planning to hold their incentive trips next year, though almost half of those said there would be changes to the programs, such as lower per-person budgets and a switch to domestic destinations.

One company is cancelling its program altogether; another is replacing its trip with a cash award. The survey included 22 incentive planners. In a panel sponsored by the Society of Incentive & Travel Executives at the show, incentive firms offered solutions for corporate clients whose qualifiers were hesitant to travel, or afraid of liability issues:

  • Look into individual incentives, so the qualifiers can choose where they want to travel.

  • Hire a security firm to assess destinations and properties.

  • Survey qualifiers about what they want.

  • Consider South America for international travel, because it does not feel as risky as Europe right now.

  • If you do travel internationally, involve representatives from the U.S. embassy to meet and greet participants, and include a stop at the embassy on the initial group tour of the destination.

  • Include language in your contract to protect your company from occurrences outside your control.

  • Go to New York! NYC & Co. (the New York CVB) and various incentive firms are developing "I Love New York" packages for groups. Not only is a New York incentive trip patriotic, but it is an important step in bringing the travel industry—and the economy—back on its feet.

Most surprising was one suggestion that planners simply not choose a destination for their next incentive trip. By using a general description (such as "beach resort") and booking much closer to the date of the trip, companies can avoid potential attrition charges.

A full report on how the war on terrorism is affecting companies' incentive plans will be published in the January issue of Corporate Meetings & Incentives.