Attendee Preferences in Incentive Travel: 2024 Insights

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Skift Take

Discover the latest incentive travel trends and preferences for 2024, revealing what destinations and experiences truly motivate employees in 2024.

The Incentive Research Foundation (IRF) has released its 2024 report on attendee preferences for incentive travel, shedding light on evolving trends and preferences in the industry. The report is based on a survey of 400 employees in a full-time sales role eligible for an incentive travel award within the past three years. The findings reveal noteworthy shifts from the previous year.

Incentive Travel Appeals to Younger Generations

Similar to previous years, the IRF found that more people aged 43 and under reported being motivated by incentive travel than those aged 44 and over. In the younger demographic, 93% said they found incentive travel extremely or very motivating, which dropped to 86% for the older demographic. The study suggests that older demographics may have already had opportunities to experience more travel programs during their work tenure and so are less motivated by them.

Key Destinations and Preferences

  • North America: Hawaii continues to be the top preference among North American destinations, maintaining its lead for the fourth consecutive year. Other popular destinations include Las Vegas and Florida, with Alaska showing the most significant increase in preference.
  • International: Western Europe, particularly Germany, France, and Italy, remains the most favored international destination. Central America and the Middle East follow, with South Asia and North Africa seeing notable increases in interest.

While destinations like Hawaii and Western Europe are highly preferred, actual bookings are predominantly in Mexico and the Caribbean. According to data provided by Cvent, Playa del Carmen, Nassau, and San Jose del Cabo continue to top the booking charts. This difference highlights a gap between attendee preferences and real-world booking trends driven by cost and logistical considerations.

Top Drivers of Positive Experiences

  1. Relaxation: Above all, attendees want free time to relax.
  2. Unique Experiences: Having a unique experience that attendees could not otherwise have is also a priority, which aligns with a growing desire for trips that offer more than just luxury but also unique, memorable experiences.
  3. Luxury Accommodations and Experiences: The demand for luxury risen by 7.5% compared to last year. All-inclusive resorts and five-star hotels are particularly appealing.

While not among the top selections, gifting was significantly more popular this year than last year, rising 8.5%.

Significant Attendee Preference Shifts

Survey participants were asked to rank preferred features of inventive tips across ten dimensions. Much like in previous years, the clear priorities are appealing destinations, bringing a guest or companion, all expenses covered, and luxury accomodation and experiences.

Some preferences seemed to have shifted in priority. Excursions and sightseeing, interacting with locals, health and wellness, and community service projects all dropped in preference this year, despite growing in priority over the last three years.

Trip Length and Extensions

The ideal trip length varies by destination. The ideal length of trips within North American trips is four to six days, while international trips are ideally seven or more days. Despite planners often booking shorter trips, more than half of the attendees extend their trips, evenly split between pre- and post-trip extensions. However, the percentage of those extending their trips has dropped from 66% in 2023 to 57% this year.

Cruise Travel

Cruises are seeing a resurgence in popularity post-pandemic. Improved perceptions of safety and comfort have driven up interest. Compared to last year, 10% more respondents said they found cruise experiences desirable regardless of the destination.

For more detailed insights, you can access the full report on the IRF website here. Explore our coverage of a previous edition of the report here.