The line between incentive travel and meetings is blurring, according to preliminary findings from joint research conducted by Corporate Meetings & Incentives and the Incentive Research Foundation. When asked what percentage of each day was spent at meetings during their incentive trip, almost half (49.6 percent) of survey respondents said more than 20 percent of each day, while 46.7 percent said less than 20 percent.

"It seems a soft economy and tax implications have encouraged many planners to continuously create spaces for business content within incentive travel programs, said Melissa Van Dyke, president, Incentive Research Foundation. “Over a quarter of planners now have more than 40 percent of their event dedicated to business meetings."

This practice of including meetings is far from new for insurance companies because of tax requirements, said Angie Pfiefer, CMM, assistant vice president corporate meetings, travel and incentives at Investors Group Financial Services, Winnipeg, Canada, who has been doing so for more than 10 years. “But also, when you bring your top people together, it would be a missed opportunity not to communicate with them, reinforce some key messages, and get them motivated and engaged.”

The Site International Foundation and the Meeting Professionals International Foundation have also been investigating the degree to which convergence is taking place in both the planning and the delivery of incentive travel and meetings. Sixty-one percent of respondents to their recent joint survey predicted an increase in the practice of including business meetings and other similar components in incentive programs, while 33.3 percent said they would stay the same. Only 5.9 percent felt there would be a decrease in meetings during incentive trips.

Chuck Lane, director of incentive travel & public relations at Humana, Green Bay, Wis., said that although he has not added meetings to his incentive trips, his post-trip surveys show “attendees asking for more meetings and more ‘semi-formal information exchanges.’”

The Site–MPI research also found that corporate planners who typically organize meetings are planning more incentives, and planners who usually focus on incentives are being asked to plan more meetings (37 percent of respondents).

The CMI–IRF survey will be released at the beginning of January. Look for an article further exploring the convergence of meetings and incentives in the spring. Here is more information on the MPI-Site joint survey.

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