“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..."So goes the famous Charles Dickens quote so many of us learned as we closed out our high-school English experience. Likewise, for many of us closing out the last remnants of 2010, this quote seems fitting. It does not take a great deal of reflection to recognize this last year as one of the most eventful in our industry's history. As we begin 2011, the new joint IRF and CMI survey highlights some incredibly important, and telling, markers of the industry we were … and the industry we are becoming.
The research found that budget cuts continued in 2010, but with a 17 percent drop year over year in the number of respondents who said their budgets would be lower next year (now down to 43 percent). Looking forward, respondents expect this trend to continue into 2011.
Contrary to the wide media treatment incentives received in 2009, respondents resoundingly noted the underlying reason for budget cuts and cancellations in 2010 was the economy, not the “AIG effect.” At least a third of planners also noted that there is continuous pressure from the executive suite to alter incentive plans.
With the lower budgets so many of us are now experiencing, there remains the same level of expectation that incentive programs meet and exceed goals. Respondents listed staying within budget, generating excitement about trips, and choosing a destination that fits within budget criteria as the biggest challenges in meeting these expectations. The good news is that, thanks to the ingenuity and resourcefulness of planners, and adjustments such as cutting room gifts, reducing management attendees, and cutting the number of qualifiers, incentive trips are still meeting expectations. In fact, less than 10 percent of respondents said attendees were dissatisfied with the destination, service, or property provided (equivalent to last year).
The good news in all of this? With lower budgets and fewer resources than most of us have ever experienced, respondents reported that attendees were still motivated and the incentives that occurred were still effective.
Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities is brimming with themes of destruction and resurrection. The meetings and incentives industry seems to find itself here as well … deconstructing many of the luxuries previously noted as necessities and beginning again with new elements of corporate social responsibility and virtual connectivity. We are ending an era and beginning a new one. Budgets will remain tied to business success and even as the economy rebounds will most likely not match pre-recession levels. Our definition of extravagance will change. But in the end, attendees will be motivated and incentives will allow our businesses to reach new levels of success.
You Might Also Be Interested In