Responses to Corporate Meeting & Incentives’ annual Incentive Travel Study have been calculated—and the results may bode ill for travel as a preferred incentive tool.

In an e-mail/Internet survey conducted between Oct. 29 and Nov. 14, CMI invited readers to respond to questions regarding the extent to which they’re planning to use travel incentives in 2002 and beyond. Responses to some questions indicate that travel incentives just may follow the dip in travel overall in the coming year.

Here are some of the more eye-opening responses to selected survey questions:

Question: How will your company’s 2002 group travel incentives budget compare to 2001?
Only 19 percent of the respondents said that their 2002 budget will be greater than 2001’s. On the other hand, 67.7 percent said their budget would be smaller (24.9 percent) or about the same (32.8 percent). Significantly, perhaps, 21.7 percent said they weren’t sure—which potentially means that nearly half of all companies will cut their incentive-travel budgets.

Question: Does your company plan on replacing travel incentives with cash, gift certificates or merchandise in 2002?
Forty-four percent of the respondents said they will not be replacing travel incentives with cash, gift-certificate or merchandise awards; nearly 13 percent said they would be. However, 42.3 percent said they weren’t sure—good news, perhaps, for gift-certificate and merchandise incentive houses, potentially bad news for travel-incentive specialists.

Question: In light of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, are you still planning to move forward with your incentive travel programs in 2002?
While more than half of the respondents (51.4 percent) said their 2002 programs will continue unchanged , more than a quarter (26.1 percent) said they will or may change some of their program. Furthermore, 18.2 percent said they were undecided, and more than 3 percent said they had already canceled their 2002 plans for incentive travel.

Question: Does your company plan to hold an incentive travel program in 2003?
Nearly 60 percent of respondents said they were planning to do incentive travel programs in 2003. More than one third (34.4 percent) said they were undecided—once again, a significant percentage. Slightly less than 2 percent said they definitely would drop incentive travel for 2003.

As far as the short-term future trend for incentive travel, it appears the "undecideds" may have the answer. It remains to be seen how long the aftermath of Sept. 11 lingers and how the effects of a lagging economy shake out for the incentive-travel market

About 6,000 domestic CMI subscribers were invited to take part in the survey; a total of 339 responses were completed and returned.

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