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| Written by Marie Johnson, CMP

Incentive Professionals Ready to Resume Travel and In-Person Events

As we hit a tipping point with more than 50% of the US population vaccinated and organizations beginning to consider incentive travel programs again, the Incentive Research Foundation invited corporate incentive program owners and third-party incentive house executives from across the country to Palm Beach, Florida. The Palm Beaches and their partners set out to create a destination review experience that would demonstrate how both safety and experience could be effectively balanced.

Incentive Group Palm Beach

IRF Releases Buyer Decision Drivers

The group also participated in facilitated roundtable discussions on the final day of the event, sharing their insights from their own perspective as well as that of their clients where applicable regarding the considerations for moving forward with group incentive travel programs. Our very own, Tracy Norum, CMP, CIS, CITP, Senior Director of Incentives & Engagement represented Meetings & Incentives Worldwide at this important industry event.

From those insights, the IRF is pleased to release Buyer Decision Drivers, a new white paper that explores incentive buyer confidence and concerns as incentive travel programs return. “The incentive professionals we met with are excited to launch or resume programs, but they are challenged to create an incentive-level experience balanced with appropriate health and safety measures,” said Stephanie Harris, IRF President. “As we take these first steps back to in-person events, planning and flexibility are critical, particularly with the protocols landscape in a constant state of change.”

Communication Takes Center Stage

One of the insights from the group’s conversation was the increased importance of pre-event communications. “In our role in developing incentive strategies for our clients, communication and marketing have always been at the forefront,” said Tracy Norum. “However, now are seeing that the messaging, channels, and cadence need to be more thoughtfully considered. As creatives, we tend to like the element of surprise. But our current environment calls for more transparency in communicating all aspects of the event and the entire journey, so the program participants have a sense of both physical and emotional safety.”

Key takeaways from Buyer Decision Drivers include:

  • Incentive professionals and program participants are overwhelmingly ready to resume travel and in-person events.
  • For employers, reputational risk is driving the decisions about incentive travel in many cases. Some are concerned about moving too quickly, while others are concerned about not moving quickly enough.
  • Pre-event communications must establish clear expectations that encompass the entire journey, including what to expect with air travel, onsite health and safety information, event announcements, and local regulations.
  • There is currently compression particularly among US destinations that are in high demand for leisure and incentive travelers. The expectation among the group is that we will see a return to business as usual relative to rates and availability in late 2022.
  • The talent challenge could impact service levels onsite, and the economic downturn could impact the selection of local restaurants, suppliers, and businesses available.
  • Tapping into resources on the ground such as DMO’s, DMC’s and CVB’s can provide clarity regarding local and state regulations, and how consistently each supplier – properties, venues, transportation, and more – are following those regulations.

“Events can be held safely without sacrificing experience as our event hosted by The Palm Beaches demonstrated, but it takes extra planning and enhanced communication,” added Harris.

Information in this article was sourced from the IRF website and whitepaper. To view or download a copy of the full report, please visit The IRF’s Buyer Decision Drivers webpage. Photo credits: Lila Photos