by Leo Jakobson | October 21, 2016
Companies have been spending more on their incentive travel programs this year, with both sales and dealer/channel programs seeing strong growth compared to 2015.

The respondents to Incentive's 2016 Travel IQ survey saw the largest programs, with budgets of $1 million or more, grow from 8.1 percent last year to 13.7 percent this year. And 38.2 percent of respondents say they are increasing incentive budgets, while just 9 percent are decreasing budgets. More than 11 percent of the respondents say their incentive travel budgets grew by at least 10 percent.

The number running travel programs for an internal sales force grew 10 points to 75 percent in 2016, while channel sales programs were up 5 points, from 17.6 percent in 2015 to 23.1 percent this year. Also of note, incentive travel programs that include non-sales employees jumped from 24.3 percent last year to 31 percent this year. Go back a few years and that was so rare as to be virtually nonexistent.
On the other hand, there was weakness this year in both client/customer incentive travel programs (dropping from 46.4 percent in 2015 to 36.8 percent in 2016) and dealer/distributor programs (down from 29.7 percent last year to 19.8 percent this year). 

Another well-reported trend borne out by the Travel IQ survey results is companies' growing interest in taking their winners to places they haven't been before. The desire to use a new destination grew from 18 percent in 2015 to 24.1 percent this year.

The survey also showed that both the executives running incentive travel programs and the winners going on them are a resilient bunch. Given the number of instances of terrorism in the past year, it was somewhat surprising that the number of respondents citing security and safety among their top three most important criteria in choosing a destination only grew 3 percent, from 33.8 percent to 36.8 percent. That's fewer than the number who chose ease of air travel (44.3 percent) and less than half the number of the top factor -- reasonable cost value -- which was selected by 75.9 percent of respondents this year, up less than 1 percent from 2015.