by Leo Jakobson | December 12, 2017

No one will be shocked to hear that safety and security is a growing concern for incentive travel planners. With enemies foreign and domestic increasing the tempo of terror attacks both abroad and at home, so-called "100-year" storms churning up every five to 10 years, and diseases like Zika raising concerns, risk management has become a front-and-center issue in the incentive industry. As, indeed, it has in the broader meetings and convention industry. 

"We have had emergency preparedness plans for as long as I remember," says Rhea Stagner, CIS, division vice president for sourcing and supplier relations at Maritz Travel - A Maritz Global Events Company. "Most times, the clients never cared to even ask about it. They just said, 'We know you've got it, we're fine, if there's a hurricane, if something happens, it's handled.' We've talked about it more in the last year than we ever have. And we don't talk about it just with our customers. We're pulling in our destination management company partners, our hotel partners, our cruise lines -- it is a very open conversation."

So, when we asked survey respondents what are the three most important criteria they use when selecting an incentive trip's destination, security jumped more than five points, from 36.8 percent in 2016 to 42.5 percent in 2017. That put security ahead of a good reputation/buzz, which garnered 41.4 percent. 

Looking at the most popular domestic destinations, when respondents were asked to select their top three choices, the two big winners were Colorado (up 5.3 points to 14.7 percent) and New York (up 4.7 points to 23.5 percent) in 2017. Domestic cruises jumped nearly 3 percent, to 10.5 this year.

Another winner, sadly, was Puerto Rico, which 10.5 percent of the survey's respondents selected this year as a top-three domestic destination. That was up from 6.6 percent in 2016 --but the survey was completed before Hurricane Maria.  

The full results are below.


1) What are the primary benefits your company associates with incentive travel programs? 
Increase sales  61.75%
Increase market share  22.11%
Create new markets  22.81%
Sell new accounts  22.11%
Introduce new products  23.51%
Recognize performance  57.54%
Retention/recruitment of employees  32.98%
Build morale  54.04%
Foster teamwork  34.74%
Improve employee loyalty  46.67%
Build customer loyalty  32.28%
Improve customer service  22.11%
CSR/Corporate Social Responsibility  8.07%
Other  2.81%

2) What audiences typically participate in your incentive travel programs?
Internal sales force  65.96%
Channel sales force  18.60%
Dealer/distributor  24.21%
Client/customer  39.30%
Non-sales employees  28.07%
Other (please specify)  5.96%

3) To what extent, if any, are you using individual incentive travel programs in place of group travel programs this year?
We use individual travel programs as well as group incentive travel  43.86%
We replaced some group travel programs with individual incentive travel  14.39%
We replaced all group travel programs with individual incentive travel  11.58%
We only use group travel incentives  30.18%

4) How do you use merchandise in your incentive travel programs?
We include small nightly room gifts (sunscreen, logoed apparel, local souvenirs, etc.)  47.72%
We include brand-name awards (sunglasses, cameras, watches, luggage, electronics, etc.)  44.56%
We include an experiential award of a brand-name item from a selection of items  21.05%
We do not include merchandise awards in our travel programs  24.56%

5) Which of the following are most important criteria when evaluating a destination for your incentive travel programs? 
Reasonable costs/value  70.2%
Destination's reputation/buzz  41.4%
Desire to use a new destination  24.9%
Distance traveled by attendees  29.1%
Sufficient airlift  17.9%
Ease of air travel (no or few transfers, good airport, etc)  43.9%
Convenient local transportation  15.8%
Security/safety  42.5%
Appealing climate  39.3%
Diverse dining/entertainment options  21.1%
Cultural/recreational attractions available  27.7%
Other 4.6%

6) Which of the following domestic destinations were the most popular for your incentive travel programs in 2017?
Alaska  7.7%
Arizona  14.7%
California  34.7%
Colorado  14.7%
Domestic Cruise  10.5%
Florida  46.7%
Georgia  5.3%
Hawaii  28.8%
Illinois  3.2%
Louisiana  6.7%
Nevada  20.4%
New England  7.4%
New York  23.5%
Puerto Rico  10.5%
South Carolina  8.4%
Texas  9.1%  
None  6.7%

7) Which of the following international destinations are the most popular for your incentive travel programs in 2017? 
Canada  15.8%
Bermuda  14.0%
Caribbean  46.7%
International Cruise  9.1%
Mexico  32.6%
Central America  6.0%
South America  7.4%
Eastern Europe  10.2%
Western Europe  20.0%
China  3.5%
Southeast Asia  7.0%
Hong Kong  4.2%
Japan  3.2%
Other Asian Destinations  1.8%
Australia/New Zealand/Pacific Islands  8.1%
Middle East  2.8%
Africa  2.8%
None  24.2%

8) How do the availability of GOLF and SPA affect your choice of a destination?
Golf is very important  19.3%
Golf is somewhat important  43.9%
Golf is not at all important  17.2%
Golf destinations are to be avoided  2.1%
Spa is very important  27.0%
Spa is somewhat important  39.3%
Spa is not at all important  7.7%
Spa destinations are to be avoided  1.1%
No effect  17.5%

9) Do you include a brand-name merchandise gifting experience in any of your incentive travel programs (i.e., choose from a selection of sunglasses or watches)?
Yes  45.7%
No, but am considering adding one  29.6%
No  24.6%

10) How often do you use cruising as an incentive travel program award?
Every year  11.2%
Every 1 to 3 years  14.7%
Every 3 to 5 years  7.7% 
Occasionally  21.4% 61
Never  44.9%

11) When using cruising for your incentive programs, do you…
Prefer a full buyout  15.1%
Prefer a partial buyout  12.6%
Prefer to be one group on a larger ship  27.4%
Do not use cruises for incentive travel  44.9%

12) What was your entire organization's annual incentive travel budget for 2017?
Less than $50,000  31.2%
$50,000 to $99,999  17.2%
$100,000 to $249,999  14.7%
$250,000 to $499,999  10.5%
$500,000 to $999,999  11.2%
$1 million or more  15.1%

13) On average, how much did you spend on incentive travel awards per recipient in 2017?
Less than $499  23.5%
$500 to $999  14.4%
$1,000 to $2,499  23.5%
$2,500 to $4,999  23.2%
$5,000 to $9,999  10.5%
More then $10,000  4.9%

14) How did your budget for incentive travel programs change in 2017?
Increased by 5% or less  13.7%
Increased 5%-10%  13.7%
Increased 10%-25%  12.6%
Increased 25%-50%  1.8%
Increased more than 50%  2.1%
Stayed the same  46.0%
Decreased more than 50%  1.8%
Decreased 25%-50%  0.7%
Decreased 10%-25%  2.8%
Decreased 5%-10%  4.6%
Decreased by 5% or less  0.4%