by Leo Jakobson | September 22, 2017
Every year, Incentive gathers a group of professionals from all sectors of the motivation, recognition, and engagement business to talk about the state of the industry. This summer, 12 participants gathered at the spectacular Langham Place, New York, Fifth Avenue to discuss topics including the growing focus on return on experience (ROE) over return on investment (ROI), changing views of the impact of Millennials, and the growing attention paid to security, as well as what's happening in the merchandise, gift card, and travel awards categories. What follows are highlights of that discussion. One additional point: This conversation took place before the devastation of hurricanes Harvey and Irma, so comments in the travel section do not reflect their impact on those destinations.

This is part one of a four-part article. The other parts can be found below, and one-on-one video interviews of Roundtable participants can be found here.

• Part 2: Travel
• Part 3: Merchandise
• Part 4: Gift Cards

 

PART 1: THE STATE OF THE INCENTIVE INDUSTRY
 

Rhea Stagner:
 The incentive business has continued to be very strong. We are seeing some new business come into the market as well, but we haven't seen a significant increase in the number of participants or number of winners.


Patrick T. Smith: For the last 10 years, the Incentive Research Foundation (IRF) has been conducting a "Net Optimism Survey," tracking the overall mood of the incentive business. Those numbers show that business is very good. Two years ago, it was excellent, right now it's very good. The numbers are still very high, but not quite as high as they were two years ago.

Specific to the luxury market, my business is excellent right now. From my perspective, the incentive market, which represents about 70 percent of our group business out of the United States, is very strong.


Trevor Hanks: Groups are booking further and further out, which is a sign of these corporations' confidence. From the destination management side, our pipeline has never been stronger. They are booking incentives 18 months, two years, sometimes three or four years out because of the lack of space in these hotels.


David Sturt: On the employee recognition side, we continue to see strong demand and increased growth. We have the lowest unemployment rate in 16 years. For the last several years, everybody was just worried about trying to grow, and now it seems like all of our clients are worried about how to keep their talent. For many years people were happy to have a job, and now there are lots of options available to them. And employers are just finding that out, so we're hearing a lot about employee retention as well as the employee engagement side, which has been hot now for some time.