Not only will the incentive industry recover this year, but it will do so quickly, say the members of two industry associations.

At the Society of Incentive and Travel Executives' international conference, held in Lisbon in early December, members responding to an electronic poll said the outlook for incentive bookings in 2002 and 2003 was “very positive.” The participants, a mix of buyers and suppliers, “were very optimistic about business returning to pre-September 11 levels,” reports Jill Harrington, SITE's executive vice president and CEO.

What has changed is where they're traveling. “A lot of people say they are staying closer to home,” Harrington says. “They may not be staying in their own country, but there aren't as many long-haul trips.”

According to the same poll, travel remains a strong motivator. “Although the perception of travel dipped a little right after September 11, it still came out considerably stronger than merchandise,” Harrington says. “A full 90 percent were confident that travel would continue to be a high motivator.”

Attendees at LIMRA International's annual meeting in Toronto in late October were just as optimistic. LIMRA is a worldwide marketing association for insurance and financial services companies. “In spite of September 11, the feeling was pretty upbeat,” says Bill Tindall, senior vice president of retirement services at American United Life, Indianapolis, and the newly elected LIMRA board chairman. He adds that planners will be under more pressure than ever to demonstrate the value of their incentives.