Incentive travel, or company event programs designed to reward top employees, represents a small part of the overall global meetings and events sector.

Company spending on incentives is increasing, as more evidence emerges that incentive programs are effective at encouraging top employees to thrive.

Research from the Society for Incentive Travel Excellence (SITE) found that while budgets spent on incentive travel have increased, the average spending per attendee has remained the same for most. This means more employees are likely being invited on incentive trips.

Incentive Travel Budget Has Increased
201620172018
Corporate Users42%50%46%
Incentive/Meeting Companies51%46%58%
Buyers48%47%54%
Source: SITE

More than half (54 percent) of buyers and agencies (58 percent) said their budgets increased year-over-year, although the average spend per person remained at $4,000 from 2017 to 2018 after increasing from $3,000 in 2016.

Corporate users reported a new focus on managing costs, with less expensive destinations and all-inclusive resorts becoming more common despite budget increases. Regardless of the cost concerns, corporate users spent more on average than others ($4,550 per person).

Buyers looking to control costs have experimented with selecting all-inclusive destinations, shorter programs, less expensive hotels, less expensive amenities, and fewer inclusions during the trip. Sellers looking to increase the value they can charge worked to bake more creativity into event design, partnered to provide more services, and included more for the same price they charged before.

For those planning incentive trips or buying them, it can be a challenge to prove the value of spending so much money on rewards for a company’s most profitable employees. Tying positive business outcomes to their incentive travel program is of the utmost importance.

Most Important for Buyers in 2018 (lower is more important)
Increased sales and/or Profitability for the Overall Company2.82
Better Relationship Between Employees and Management4.69
Increased Individual Productivity4.76
Improved Employee Engagement/Morale4.97
Better Relationship Building5.02
Improved Employee Retention5.7
Source: SITE

The good news is that 58 percent of both buyers and sellers said their perception of incentive travel is more positive than a decade ago, with just 10 percent reporting a more negative perception. Corportate leaders see the value in investing in their top earnings, with many even embracing company wide retreats to build comraderie.

When it comes to outcomes for those who attend incentive programs, having a positive impact on personal and professional developing was ranked as the most important outcome, followed by effectively organizing employees around a common goal.

While event technology has taken on a strong role in traditional business events, evidence shows that technology beyond offering a mobile app is secondary for incentive trips.

Items Always or Sometimes Incorporated in Incentive Travel Program (Buyers)
Inclusion of Spouses/Partners96%
Wellness86%
Mobile App79%
Social Media74%
CSR74%
Augmented Reality31%
Virtual Reality31%
Chatbots22%
Source: SITE
Photo Credit: The Sagrada Família. the emblematic Barcelona church of the late Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí, is the kind of engineering and cultural work that Context Tours particularly tries to unravel for its guests. Source: Context Travel Context Travel