by Matt Alderton | January 22, 2016

The incentive travel industry had one of its best years ever in 2015, and 2016 is looking just as bright, according to the Society for Incentive Travel Excellence (SITE), whose SITE Foundation this week published its annual analysis and forecast of the incentive travel industry.

Based on a survey of 420 incentive travel buyers, sellers, and analysts, the 2015 "SITE Index Benchmark Study" found that incentive travel budgets have increased slightly over 2015, with a median spend of approximately $3,400 per participant. Furthermore, many companies indicate that they're planning to increase their incentive travel budgets, as well as the number of eligible incentive participants, in the next 12 months.

"The SITE Foundation has been working to improve our research processes, data quality, and response rates with the goal of providing deeper insights into why incentive travel is a vital business tool. The 2015 SITE Index not only demonstrates the business case, but also provides buyers and sellers valuable insights into industry trends and predicts optimism for growth in the global incentive travel industry in 2016," said Tina Weede, vice president of research and education for the SITE Foundation and president of Atlanta-based USMotivation.

Other key findings from the 2015 "SITE Index Benchmark Study" include the following:

• Although budgets are increasing, cost containment remains important. Nearly three-quarters of buyers say they're managing costs through a variety of ways, such as planning shorter programs (34 percent), having fewer inclusions (29 percent), and selecting less expensive destinations (29 percent).

• The market for incentive travel services will likely become more competitive as consumers expect to do more than acquire a travel package. With this in mind, seven in 10 sellers say they are currently developing new and more creative ways to add value for their customers.

• Despite a positive outlook, incentive travel professionals indicate that domestic and world events, including airline costs, the world economy, and the threat of terrorism, have the potential to negatively impact the industry

• Less than one-third of incentive travel buyers and sellers say they "always" or "almost always" track the ROI of programs, and over half of buyers say they don't track ROI at all because their program is so widely accepted and embedded that it does not require measurement. The industry's lack of metrics could make incentive travel programs vulnerable during financially challenging times, according to SITE.

• Approximately seven in 10 incentive travel programs now include a corporate social responsibility (CSR) component.

• Nearly half (42 percent) of incentive travel buyers say they "always" include a meeting in their incentive travel program

"Buyers and sellers of incentive travel will benefit greatly from reviewing the SITE Index report, applying the findings, and implementing strategies based on information relevant to their business," Weede continued. "While times are good, it is vitally important we stay on top of prevailing trends and prepare for the future to ensure that our businesses and the global incentive travel industry remain strong for years to come."

The SITE Foundation's full report will be published on Feb. 8.


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