6 Incentive Travel Trends for 2015January 1, 2015

January 1, 2015

6 Incentive Travel Trends for 2015

761_3980279Brewer,Rhonda-Maritz-147x147Rhonda Brewer is 2015 president of SITE, Society for Incentive Travel Excellence, and vice president group business travel-sales, Maritz Travel Company. www.siteglobal.com

Good news! The incentive travel industry is growing and is predicted to continue to grow at a steady pace through 2016. Results of the recently released SITE Index Annual Analysis and Forecast for the Motivational Events Industry reveal continued optimism about the industry’s future with 80 percent of survey respondents reporting the use of incentive travel will increase. An ever-improving global economy appears to be the major reason for this confidence as well as bookings for future business.

So how can you capitalize on new business opportunities? What potential concerns should you keep in mind? And most important, how can you keep your existing customers happy?

Focus on these six key trends and what they mean for your business as they impact incentive travel in 2015 and beyond:

  1. Seller’s Market. In recent years, the industry has seen a shift from a buyer’s market to a seller’s market, with supply down and demand up. While clients still expect hotels and venues to hold space for a long time without a firm commitment and are still adjusting to the reduction in negotiation power with the shift, the reality is they are facing a lack of availability and price pressures. Make sure that you’re keeping an open dialogue with your clients through the entire lifecycle of a program to hold firm deadlines and maintain clear expectations.
    The new seller’s market dynamic means an increase in room rates as well as food and beverage minimums. Some things you can consider to deal with these increases are making sure your space-to-room ratio is appropriate, shift offsite events to on-property to meet minimums, and always look to provide alternate dates when possible.
  2. Measurable Value. In the digital age where consumers are more connected to each other and experiences than ever before, the need to be “customer-centric” is imperative. When it comes to our customer, there is often a disconnect between the definition of “value” among executives (cost savings and return on investment) and meeting owners (engaging content and positive experience). Understanding guests and gathering consensus among event stakeholders on the core objectives is essential to successfully bridging the value gap. By placing the attendee and defined business objectives in the center of the planning process ensures that companies are creating more effective, valuable experiences. The emergence of metrics around measuring value and customer experience has placed a premium on the ability for businesses to provide data around the impact of a given incentive trip or event. Between mobile and onsite technology data, trackable email campaigns, social media metrics and the ability to measure Web registration information, there are more ways than ever to gauge success beyond simply looking at post-event guest satisfaction surveys.
  3. Full-service Technology. Technology is on the move. Using technology at meetings and events isn’t new; however, how it’s being used is. While many attendees already rely on specialized event apps to access vital event information, organizers have an opportunity to personalize an attendee’s experience through the use of indoor geo-locating technology. The technology can help virtually guide the attendee through the event: highlighting booths and information the attendee might find interesting based on previous activity, locating nearby attendees for networking opportunities and wayfinding throughout the venue. For organizers, the data generated by this level of technology will allow them to become more attendee-centric and data-savvy — gaining useful insight to attendees’ behaviors and using that to improve future meetings and events.
    Mobile event apps are becoming “table stakes” rather than a “nice to have” as event attendees are starting to expect the entire event experience on-demand and at their fingertips. Eighty-six percent of respondents to the SITE Index survey confirmed the importance of mobile technology for program communications and operations. Event guests are looking more and more for a completely integrated and seamless approach to technology from the second they register for an event to the time they depart for home.

    “Event guests are looking more and more for a completely integrated and seamless approach to technology from the second they register for an event to the time they depart for home.”

  4. Baseline Strategy. With many companies experiencing organizational leadership and structural changes every 12 to 18 months, it is essential for companies to develop an overall meetings and incentives strategy that can be executed by anyone, anywhere. Companies implementing an overall strategy can benefit from consistent program messaging to internal and external audiences, stronger negotiation power with suppliers, and achievement of organizational goals and objectives.
    By creating a baseline strategy that is rooted in your company’s core values, you’ll have a constant framework to work off of that will keep you from having to start from scratch every few years. You’ll also be able to focus on more strategic enhancements to a given program or set of programs on a year-to-year basis rather than getting bogged down with the basics.
  5. Global Expertise. As the market continues to improve and global economies expand, the need for more global meetings is on the rise. The biggest trend from a global standpoint is being able to operate at a global level but understand cultures at a regional one. As global meetings continue to grow in size and scope, deeper in-region knowledge is a necessity to make sure that incentive trips go off without a hitch. This knowledge is also essential when it comes to both risk mitigation and the need to provide more unique, memorable experiences year in and year out.
  6. Budgets vs. Fees. In this seller’s market, we’re seeing ancillary airline fees on the rise, which is taking money out of budgets that could have been spent in other areas. Budgets also are remaining flat for the most part while hotel room night and airline costs are rising quickly. Additionally, hotel contract negotiation is becoming harder and harder because the power lies with the seller. Smaller budgets and more fees are hardly new trends, but they do show an increased need for demonstrating value through analytics and an increased focus on designing a better guest experience.

While many of these trends mentioned have been a factor in one way or another in past years in the incentive travel industry, the takeaway and focus for 2015 should ultimately be on technology and its ever-evolving importance and influence on the customer and guest experience. Customers and guests have more power than ever, and our industry’s ability to recognize this and evolve accordingly will ultimately determine our future success. C&IT

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