by Alex Palmer | October 06, 2014
The Incentive Research Foundation (IRF)'s "Fall 2014 Pulse Survey" finds upbeat expectations around incentive travel programs. Based on the responses of 284 incentive providers, suppliers, and corporate incentive travel buyers, the report finds that budgets are on the rise and the healing economy has planners expressing optimism about the future.

When asked about how they expect the economy to impact their travel programs, 19 percent had a strongly positive outlook - the highest since IRF began its "Pulse Survey." An additional 48 percent expressed somewhat positive perceptions of the economy's impact while just 15 percent expressed a somewhat or strongly negative perception. 

When divided into specific sectors within the industry, suppliers were the most bullish about the economy's potential, with 32.6 percent expressing a strongly positive view of it. In contrast, just 18.7 percent of third-party respondents and only 4.5 percent of corporate incentive travel buyers were as upbeat about the economy, though large percentages of both third party and corporate planners expressed somewhat positive views (47.2 percent and 52.3 percent, respectively). 

Less cheery was the outlook on the impact made by the current air transportation environment to incentive travel. More than half (51 percent) of respondents held a somewhat or significantly negative view on how air travel was shaping their program, compared to just 19 percent that held a slightly or significantly positive view. 

Despite these logistical concerns, planners expressed generally positive views, with 15 percent expecting to shift from a domestic to an international destination (though this is a drop from the 19 percent that said the same in the "Spring 2014 Pulse Survey"). Additionally, 9 percent increased their on-site inclusions per participant and the same proportion increased the total number of rooms. 

Even more upbeat was the response given by almost half (48 percent) of respondents who noted they expect their incentive travel budgets to increase in the coming year, compared with just 15 percent that expect them to decrease. While budgets and economic outlook appear healthier than they had been, planners expected budget-conscious decisions to shape incentive travel in the near future, with 14 percent expecting to shift to all-inclusive pricing and 44 percent anticipating that procurement and purchasing departments' involvement in incentive travel to slightly or significantly increase.