by Alex Palmer | November 05, 2015
The slow-improving economy continues to be reflected in the incentive travel sector. According to the Incentive Research Foundation (IRF)'s "Fall 2015 Pulse Survey," majorities of incentive planners and suppliers are upbeat about the impact of the economy on their travel programs, and expect budgets to increase slightly in the year ahead.

According to the findings, 61 percent of respondents say they are optimistic about the economy's impact on their ability to plan incentive travel programs (down from 66.7 percent a year ago). However, those with a negative outlook also decreased to 11 percent this year, compared to 15 percent in 2014. The option that saw the greatest increase was that the economy "had no impact," cited by 29 percent of respondents, up from 19 percent last year.

Overall, 67 percent of respondents expect their budget to slightly increase (compared to just 7 percent that expected budgets to slightly decrease).

These expectations varied by the category in which the respondent worked. Suppliers expressed the most upbeat projections, with 72.4 percent expressing positive or somewhat positive predictions about the economy. About two-thirds (66.3 percent) of third-party planner felt the same way, while just 41.9 percent of corporate planners were so positive.

This generally positive outlook was reflected in other areas. While the largest share of respondents expected no change in their programs this year, more than one-quarter of suppliers (28.9 percent) and about one-quarter of corporate planners (24.1 percent) expected to shift their destinations from domestic to international. Some 15 percent of third-party planners and 13 percent of corporate planners expect to increase their budgets to accommodate increasing F&B costs. Additionally, 13 percent of both corporate and third-party planners expected the total number of rooms to increase (compared to just the 4 percent and 7 percent that expected them to be reduced).

On average, about 30 percent of respondents expected to spend between $2,001 and $3,000 per person for each trip, while 29 percent spent an average of $3,001 and $4,000 per person for each trip, and 22 percent spent $4,001 to $5,000 per person. And 14 percent spent more than $5,000 per person on average.

The study also analyzed expected changes to merchandise, award selections, and general issues related to the industry. The complete study can be reviewed here.