IRF Survey: Motivation Industry Back on Track

July 8, 2014

The latest Pulse survey from the Incentive Research Foundation (IRF) paints a clear picture of sustained recovery for an industry that, like many, suffered its share of cutbacks and setbacks during the recent recession.

The IRF recently surveyed motivation industry professionals about trends in incentive travel programs, merchandise/noncash programs, budgeting and other key areas for 2014. Findings indicate that things have stabilized compared to the previous four survey periods, which established a strong positive upward trend for each of the core elements outlined above, beginning in July 2009 and continuing through April 2014.

Some notable highlights:

  • Overall, respondents feel positive — 63 percent currently — about the economy’s effect on their ability to plan and implement incentive travel programs. This is the first time this indicator has remained over 60 percent in two consecutive survey periods since 2008. (November 2013 was at 69 percent.)
  • 48 percent of respondents say the economy is having a positive influence on program planning and execution of merchandise/noncash programs as well. The percentage of those saying it will have no impact rose from 32 percent a year ago to 42 percent currently.
  • More than half of respondents (53 percent) indicate they use social media tool/techniques to enhance their incentive programs (vs. 55 percent a year ago), 36 percent indicate the use of corporate social responsibility (CSR) components (vs. 39 percent a year ago), and 36 percent use gamification techniques (vs. 26 percent a year ago).
  • Respondents are nearly evenly split when it comes to the involvement of procurement/purchasing with incentive travel programs in the coming year — 47 percent anticipate no change in such involvement, while 48 percent say that the procurement/ purchasing role will increase to some degree.
  • 19 percent of respondents now say they expect a change from domestic to international destinations — up from just 4 percent two years ago. Still, 49 percent indicate that North America is their top choice, with Europe and the Caribbean tied for second at 41 percent.
  • Electronics (43 percent), jewelry/watches (33 percent), and open-loop gift cards (36 percent) are the most common merchandise used in reward & recognition programs. Other popular merchandise types are golf items (32 percent); apparel (31 percent); housewares (30 percent); and luggage (29 percent).

The survey was conducted from April 15 through May 2, with participants falling into three basic categories:

  • Corporate (Buyers, Planners, Sales, HR)
  • Supplier (Hotels, Airlines, DMCs, Merchandise)
  • Third Party (Incentive Company, Travel Agency, Consultant)


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