The panel, moderated by Bruce Tepper, CITE, vice president, Joselyn, Tepper & Associates, focused on challenges such as security for international travelers and shrinking budgets—and how suppliers can help.

Among the most significant changes panelists have seen lately:

John Sasen, executive vice president & chief marketing officer, World Medical, Inc.: "I have to rely on my suppliers to protect my groups. I always ask them, 'How can you ensure that we are going to be safe?' These days, you're rolling the dice when you choose an international destination.

"Most of our winners are in their early '30s, bring their spouses, and have small children. They're extremely worried about the people they leave behind. We recently had to cancel a program in Argentina and Venezuela because of bad press and lost $250,000. This is supposed to be a reward—but it can feel like a penalty if they don't believe they're safe."

Bruce Tepper, CITE, vice president, Joselyn, Tepper & Associates: "Perception is more important than it used to be. Companies rely on their suppliers to help them not look too extravagant. They're even choosing lesser properties because they don't want to be perceived as spending too much."

Roger Tondeur, CEO, MCI Group, Geneva, Switzerland: "We're entering an age of transparency. Purchasing managers within companies are getting involved and rating suppliers as 'approved' or 'preferred' and to do so they expect to audit your books."

Harith Wickrema, president, Harith Productions: "Relationships have never been more important. Companies are saying. 'We'll give you the business but we can only pay you 50 percent of what we paid you last year.' That's where relationships with suppliers come in."