Both buyers and sellers of incentive travel programs were surveyed in the 2020 incentive Travel Industry Index (ITII), a joint initiative of FICP (Financial & Insurance Conference Professionals), IRF (Incentive Research Foundation), and SITE Foundation (Society for Incentive Travel Excellence in association with Oxford Economics.
The findings indicate we are ready, and barring factors such as timing, destinations, safety, etc., in 2021 summer, we will see a boom in travel.
The resounding answer is that travel for rewards and incentives, corporate networking events, and personal vacations will pick up this summer, in some cases, to a higher level than ever seen before the pandemic, for both personal and professional reasons.
With the height of the pandemic now mainly behind us, for the second half of 2021 and looking forward to 2022, we are optimistically braced for a massive wave of incentive travel-related recognition events because people are ready and eager to connect again. To this point, the travel industry regularly conducts research to understand the travel concerns and anticipations of the domestic and global populations; they have reported compelling data that support this notion. One survey from SAP Concur suggests,
“96% of surveyed business travelers say they are willing to travel for business over the next 12 months, including 65 percent who are very willing.”
Another SAP survey point indicates that:
“About 92% of survey respondents said they are motivated to travel for business this year for mainly personal reasons, including making personal connections with customers and colleagues (54%), experiencing new places (52 percent), and taking a break from their everyday life (41 percent).”
And it’s not just limited to the business sector. A rise in the desire to travel is evident across the board. According to Bankrate.com, “Over ½ of U.S. adults plan on vacationing this summer,” while Deloittesuggests, “More than one in four (27%) respondents plan to take an international flight this summer...” Recently, the results of a Harris poll suggest, “Two-thirds of Americans have a summer trip either already planned out (36%) or booked (30%).”
Ready to travel…safely
The return to incentive and personal travel is not without its predicated factors: rate of vaccination in countries and destinations, case management, and dependence on industries that are still recovering (like hospitality and leisure) all play a role in the time and scale of a return to pre-pandemic traveling. According to Deloitte,
“…at least 75% of travelers considering factors such as COVID-19 restrictions, crowd avoidance, vaccination status, social distancing and CDC guidelines when selecting their vacation destination.”
A focus on safety also spills into travel methods as well. This is evident in flight choice to maximize safety, as it seems most travelers are opting for non-stop flights, with “only 11% of passengers surveyed considering a domestic itinerary that includes at least one connection, most likely to reduce exposure to airport crowds.” (Deloitte). Plus, the recent surge in car rental prices, while a result of a number of factors stemming from the pandemic, would also indicate that mode of travel may be desired because of its inherent social distancing nature.
Nonetheless, people are ready to travel for work and play.
From an employee rewards and recognition perspective, the outlook is rosy. According to the ITII, 66% of respondents expect incentive travel to recover in one or two years, compared to 32% who say 3-4 years and 2% saying five or more years. Senior Management agrees. 79% surveyed are still committed to incentive travel, with some adding the caveat that programs will need to adjust to account for any risks.
Also, according to the survey, the benefits suggested where incentive travel is expected to have the most impact have changed and are telling about our priorities as we rebuild. The same pre-Pandemic survey “rated company sales and profits highest amongst the benefits of incentive travel.” A year later, “in a post-COVID world, “soft power” purposes such as improved engagement, customer satisfaction, and relationship building emerge with the strongest positive shifts.”
While all benefits are essential to a successful recovery, the focus has changed, which makes sense because we are longing for connectivity.
Where and by whom companies will employ incentive travel planning is also staying closer to home. The latest survey suggests that companies will lean towards destinations within their regions as they resume incentive travel. For instance, North American buyers rank the US, Canada, the Caribbean, and Mexico as the top destinations right now.
Companies who are buying an incentive travel service will be basing their decisions on certain characteristics of the program of choice: safety, proximity, and strong providers. These are the program characteristics currently in favor.
Madison is seeing activity that reflects survey findings on incentive travel.
Madison is currently seeing historically high interest and pre-planning for incentive travel.
Booked group meetings and events for 2022 have increased by 60% as compared to pre-Covid CY2019.
Of the booked business scheduled in 2022, 86% of the destinations are in North America.
Clients are contracted, site inspections start as early as May 2021, and in many instances, budgets and eligibility have been increased by clients in order to accommodate cancellations/postponements from 2020 and early 2021.
Many desired destinations, hotels, and venues in North America are experiencing high occupancy rates in 2022.
This is promising data, and all signs are pointing to go-go-go. A comprehensive employee recognition and rewards program benefits from an incentive-travel program as a leading motivator. The need for in-person interaction will always be a driver; companies who offer their teams the memory of a lifetime with a destination event they may not have been able to attain themselves foster loyalty, engagement, and improved employee satisfaction. While timelines might vary and are subject to change based on mitigating factors, the incentive-travel industry is poised to get back on track the remaining half of this year and will be making up for the lost time.
Your next trip should be a memory that lasts forever; plan right with an expert at your side.
As a rewards and recognition provider, Madison also has a large division devoted to our Travel and Event Planning Services. Our team is the leading expert in the industry at creating and delivering the most memorable incentive trips and corporate events for our clients. We have planned and executed trips all over the globe to some of the most beautiful destinations available. Soon to be published, we created a new dynamic travel services website that highlights our many program offerings and includes a look into examples of past events that left their mark. See for yourself and take a glimpse at what an incentive and company destination event should be.