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The Incentive Research Foundation Resource Center

2012 Fall Pulse Survey: Incentive Industry Trends

To download the full study, click here.

To view the press release, click here.

Background and Survey Purpose

Since 2008 the Incentive Research Foundation (IRF) has surveyed industry professionals to obtain their opinions about the more salient trends affecting the industry.  To this end, the IRF asked these professionals questions on trends with regard to incentive travel programs, merchandise non-cash programs, and budget changes forecast for 2012. 
 
Data collection was conducted August 21, 2012 through September 4, 2012.   The survey received 246 responses. 
 

Research Methods

 

Invitations to participate in this online survey were sent to 2461 incentive providers, suppliers to the industry and corporate incentive travel buyers.  The 246 survey participants can be categorized as follows…

 

  • Buyer (Corporate planner, Incentive Company, Program Manager) (57.3%)
  • Supplier (i.e./ Hotel, Airline, DMC, Brand/Merchandise) (33.7%)
  • I am not involved in incentive programs (8.9%)

 

 

Highlights: Core Issues

 

Findings indicate that the trends have stabilized this period compared to the previous four survey periods which indicated a strong positive upward trend for each of the core issues beginning in July 2009 – October 2010. The overall trends continue to remain lower than reported in 2008.
The positive trend continues with respect to the perceptions of the company’s financial forecast influences the design and implementation of our incentive program(s) compared and the previous three survey periods.

Current Topic: Industry Trends for 2011/2012

  • Incentive Travel Programs
  • Merchandise Non-Cash Programs
  • ROI – Budget Considerations

Perceived Impact of the Economy on Ability to Plan and Implement Incentive Travel Programs

Respondents in the current survey (September 2012) indicate they are less optimistic and consider the economy as having a less of a positive impact on their ability to plan and implement incentive travel programs when compared with the previous result in March 2012. (All positive 36% September 2012 vs. 60% March 2012) 

  • Strongly negative 0.7% March 2012 vs. 5.3% September 2012.
  • All negative impacts 22% March 2012 vs. 36% September 2012.
 

Perceived Impact of the Current Air Transportation Environment of Incentive Travel Programs

 
Most respondents (63%) have a negative perception of the current Air Transportation Environment and it’s impact on incentive travel plans. 
  • Significantly negative- 12% March 2012 vs. 13% September 2012.
  • All negative perception- 71% March 2012 vs. 63% September 2012.

Techniques Used in Coming Year To Enhance The Air Transportation Portion Of Incentive Travel Programs, What Component?

  • 51% indicate that “Only Tickets” will be provided.
  • 15% indicate that “Non-air options” will be included.
  • 9% indicate that seating upgrades will be included.
  • 7% indicate that “Airline club passes” will be includedTechniques Used In Coming Year To Enhance The Air Transportation Portion Of Incentive Travel Programs, What Component? 

Trending of Techniques To Enhance The Air Transportation Portion Of Incentive Travel Programs 

The inclusion of both components has decreased slightly compared to the results reported in March 2012.
 

Anticipated Changes in Coming Year With Regards To Incentive Travel Program Destinations

Most of the respondents (45%) anticipate no change with respect to the program destinations for Incentive Travel Programs in the coming year.
  • 16% indicate that they anticipate a change from “International to Domestic” with regards to the travel program destinations
  • 15% “Will pick locations closer to “home” with regards to the travel program destinations.

Trending Anticipated Changes With Regards To Incentive Travel Program Destinations

There has been a significant decrease in program destinations from “International to Domestic” since 2010.
 

Anticipated Changes in Coming Year With Regards To Incentive Travel Accommodations

21% percent of respondents anticipate reducing the “On-Site inclusions per participant” for the accommodations portion of Incentive Travel Programs in the coming year.
 
  • 27% indicate “No Change”
  • 21% indicate the “Total number of days/nights will be reduced”.
  • 18% indicate the “Number of rooms will be reduced”
  • 12% indicate a “Change to “all inclusive” pricing options”.

Trending Anticipated Changes With Regards To Incentive Travel Accomodations

The “anticipated reduction” of both components with regards to hotel accommodations has decreased compared to the past two survey periods.
 

Anticipated Changes in Coming Year With Regards To Sponsored Non-Meal Related Components

Nearly half (48%) of respondents anticipate No Change with regards to Sponsored Non-Meal Related Components for Incentive Travel Programs in the coming year.
  • 32% indicate that Sponsored Non-Meal related components will be Reduced to some degree, and
  • 21% indicated that Sponsored Non-Meal related components will be Slightly Increased.

 

Anticipated Changes With The Involvement Of Procurement And Purchasing In Travel Incentive Programs

Most of the respondents (44%) anticipate No Change with regards to involvement of procurement and purchasing for Incentive Travel Programs in the coming year, 51% agree that procurement involvement will increase by some degree in the coming year.
  • 38% indicate that procurement and purchasing involvement will “Slightly Increase” in the coming year.
  • 13% indicate that procurement and purchasing involvement will “Significantly Increase” in the coming year.

Anticipated Changes In Incentive Travel Program Budgets for This Year

Forty-eight percent (48%) of the respondents anticipate budgets for Incentive Travel Programs to “Remain Unchanged” this coming year.
  • 21% indicate that budgets for Incentive Travel Programs will decrease by some degree in the coming year.
  • 31% indicate that budgets for Incentive Travel Programs will slightly increase this coming year.

Trend Strategy For Consideration Of Award Strategy Moving (Either Temporarily Or Permanently) From "Group Trips" To "Individual Travel Packages"

The majority (73%) of the respondents do not anticipate changing (either temporarily or permanently) from "group trips" to "individual travel packages" in the coming year.
  • A combined 9% indicate that the consideration of award strategy moving (either temporarily or permanently) from "group trips" to "individual travel packages“ in coming year to decrease.
  • 18% indicate that the consideration of award strategy moving (either temporarily or permanently) from "group trips" to "individual travel packages“ to increase in the coming year.

 

Geographic Region Chosen as "Destinations" for Incentive Travel Program(s).

53% of the respondents indicated that North America was their chosen region for Incentive Travel Destination programs.
  • Top regional destinations include:
    • The Caribbean (46%)
    • Europe (41%)
    • Central America (16%)

Perceived Impact of the Economy on Ability to Plan and Implement Merchandise Non-Cash Incentive Programs

In September 2012, respondents continue to anticipate the impact of the economy to have a “positive” effect on their ability to plan and implement merchandise non-cash incentive programs potentially indicating a positive trend in the coming year.
  • Negative impact 22% in September 2012 vs. 17% in March 2012 .
  • No impact 28% in September 2012 vs. 31% in March 2012.
  • Positive impact 50% in September 2012 vs. 53% in March 2012 .

Anticipated Changes This Year With Regards To  Merchandise Non-cash Incentive Programs Award Selections

36% of the respondents anticipate “Increased merchandise award values” in the coming year with regards to Non-Cash Incentive Program Award Selections
  • 16% indicate “No change” to the merchandise non-cash incentive program this year.
  • 32% indicated “Included individual travel as an option”
  • 31% indicated “Increased use of debit/prepaid gift cards”.
  • 29% indicated “Added Merchandise”.
  • 27% indicated “Included experience-related (SPA, event tickets, etc.)”

Merchandise Types Used Within Reward and Recognition Programs

Electronics (79%), Golf Items (68%), Luggage (66%) and House wares (62%) are the most common merchandise used in Reward and Recognition Programs.
  • More than half of the respondents indicate they use:
    • Open Cards (59%)
    • Jewelry/Watches (58%)
    • Office Accessories (58%)

Use of Points Based System for Merchandise Non-Cash
Incentive Programs

A majority (82%) of the respondents indicate they use a points based system  for their Merchandise Non-Cash Incentive program(s).
  • 18% indicated they do not use a points based system.
  • Compared with October ‘11, more respondents indicate the use of a “Points Based System” for Non-Cash incentive programs.

Anticipated Changes In Non-Cash Incentive Program Budgets for This Year

Forty-four percent (44%) of the respondents anticipate budgets for Non-Cash Incentive Programs to “Slightly Increase” this coming year.
  • 10% indicate that budgets for Non-Cash Incentive Programs will decrease by some degree in the coming year.
  • 49% indicate that budgets for Non-Cash Incentive Programs will increase by some degree in the coming year.

Anticipated Changes Incentive Program Elements

In general, respondents indicated that they anticipate most incentive program elements to remain the same in the coming year. 
  • The “Number of total qualifiers” is the element that has the highest reported increase in the coming year at 41%.
  • The following elements received “Increased” ratings of greater than 20% for the coming year:
    • Awards budget (36%)
    • Third Party/Incentive Company involvement (23%)
    • Communications budget (22%)

 

Impact on Incentive Program As A Result Of
The Current Economic Conditions

 

51% of the respondents anticipate no changes to the budget for Incentive Programs in the coming year as a result of the recent economic conditions.
  • 18% indicate that that budgets for Incentive Programs have been reduced as a result of the recent economic conditions.
  • 18% indicate that budgets for Incentive Programs have increased as a result of the recent economic conditions.
  • 12% indicate no budget change, but reduced the component and added or increased a merchandise incentive program component.
  • 1% indicate the program has been eliminated entirely as a result of the recent economic conditions

 

 

Use of Enhancement Tools/Techniques for Incentive Programs

 

Many of the respondents (62%) indicate they use Social Media tool/techniques to enhance their incentive program.
  • 48% indicate the use of CSR components.
  • 36% indicate that they use Gaming techniques.
  • 27% indicate that they use Integration with Sales Management Tools.
  • 26% indicate that they use a Virtual elements component.

Trending of Enhancement Tools/Techniques for Incentive Programs

 

While all components show decreases in the enhancement of incentive programs, “Gaming Techniques” had the only increase (6%) compared to March 2012 as an enhancement tool for incentive programs
  • Social Media, CSR components, Integration with Sales Management Tools and Virtual Elements each have significant decreases as enhancement tools when compared with October 2011.

General Perceptions of the Coming Year

 

Most respondents (54%) perceive “The Economy” to be either Slightly or Extremely positive in the coming year. 
  • While the outlook on the Economy is generally “positive”, 29% of the respondents also indicate a “negative” perception of the economy in the coming year.
  • In general, over 40% of the respondents perceive “Slightly Positive/Extremely Positive” views with respect to each of the areas measured.

 

Impact of 2012 Presidential Election on Incentive Program Planning for 2013 and Beyond

 

60% indicate they not changing the current plans for 2012 or 2013 because of the upcoming Presidential Election.
  • 27% indicated that changes may be made next year (2013) based upon the process/outcome of the 2012 Presidential Election.
  • 7% indicated that changes are planned to be made next year as a result of the upcoming Presidential Election representing the only significant change compared with March 2012.
  • Only 6% indicated that changes have already been made to this years program because of the upcoming Presidential Election.
The IRF
Incentive Research Foundation
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