Research / U.S. Business Use of Incentive Travel Awards

incentive travel

U.S. Business Use of Incentive Travel Awards

by Incentive Federation

A study of a cross-section of US businesses conrms that incentive travel, merchandise, and gift cards are popular tools for rms seeking to reward and recognize their employees, sales teams, channel, and customers. Key ndings from the study include:

  • 74% of U.S. businesses use non-cash rewards to recognize and reward key audiences in the form of incentive travel, merchandise, or gift cards 
  • U.S. businesses spend $76.9 billion per year on incentive travel, merchandise, and gift cards 
  • 98% of businesses running non-cash programs include merchandise or gift cards as a reward, spending $54.4 billion each year 
  • 46% of businesses running non-cash programs include incentive travel as an award, spending $22.5 billion per year
  • Smaller firms account for half of the market based on the sheer number of these companies

Types of Businesses

A total of 74% of US businesses use some type of non-cash award program. Incidence of non-cash programs increases with company size, as shown here:


Types of Programs

The incidence of non-cash award programs compared to those which use incentive travel as an award is shown in this graph:

* Calculations are based to all U.S. businesses, not just those oering non-cash awards.

** Travel and merchandise/card incidence is within companies using non-cash incentives for that audience. For example, within companies oering non-cash sales incentives, 53% use incentive travel as an award, and 60% offer merchandise/card awards

Program Budgets

For the Incentive Travel category of spend, average budgets are as follows. While the budgets may look signicant, incidence of incentive travel rewards are lower than merchandise/card for Employee and Customer programs – these budgets are within rms that use those types of awards.

Total Market Spending

Partially driven by the nding that more U.S. rms use these types of programs, the total market spending for incentive travel is dominated
Sales and Employee programs. On the merchandise side, Corporate Gift spending is highest, followed by nearly-equal spending in Sales and Customer Loyalty programs.

Market Breakdown By Firm Size

Although the size of the market is largely driven by the large population of smaller firms, the higher incidence and larger budgets deployed by mid-sized and large firms result in a shift in proportions – while small firms account for 86% of U.S. firms, they account for only 51% of the non-cash incentive spending.

Spending Breakdown For Incentive Travel

For incentive travel, in which travel is the key award, participants generally report their spending is divided equally between individual and group trips. The two exceptions are in the Employee and Customer categories, where rms spend relatively less on group travel.


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