What’s Top of Mind for Incentive Planners

Woman incentive attendee enjoying a relaxing moment at an idilic location with an infinity pool

Skift Take

Despite rising costs and tight budgets, incentive planners are considering destinations in Asia, South America, and Central America.

Shared exclusively with Skift Meetings, a new Global DMC Partners report offers insight into the challenges meeting and incentive planners are facing, including how they’re dealing with budgets and destination selection. Incentive travel looks different today than it did even 12 months ago.

Looking to Secure a Bargain

We continue to be in a seller’s market. Costs are the biggest concern for planners, with 75.7% selecting higher costs among their top three challenges. When coupled with a lack of availability, selected by over half (51.3%) of respondents, it suggests that planners are scrambling to lock in deals. The good news is that relationships with vendors are strong, with only 5.3% of respondents struggling with this. Responsiveness and service levels remain concerns but are only among the top three challenges for around a third of respondents.

Annual budgets are increasing for more than a third of respondents, but worryingly, that means almost two-thirds have seen no change or had their budget cut. Those who know what their 2024 budgets look like paint a similar picture. Only 11% confirm budget decreases for next year, but with inflation high, there may be few planners that can upgrade their incentive plans.

The average budget per person is all over the map for incentives. Just under half of respondents have under $5,000 to spend, but 7.3% have over $10,000. The budget for meetings tends to be tighter, with 41.7% having $2,500 or less to spend and only 24.5% having more than $4,000 to spend per attendee.

Attendance doesn’t appear to be an issue. Almost half of respondents (46%) are seeing the same numbers as last year for their meetings and incentives, and more than a third (36%) have more attendees. With numbers getting larger overall, this could increase budgetary pressure even more.

Flight Costs Dictate Destination Selection

The rising cost of air travel is playing a decisive role in destination selection, according to 71% of respondents. Despite this, respondents are now more open to long-haul travel when compared to the previous survey. U.S. and Canadian destinations continue to reign and have stayed steady, with Europe coming in second but decreasing slightly. Asia, South America, and Central America are the winners, with around 8% now looking favorably at these parts of the world.

Sustainability Is More of a Priority

Twenty percent more planners have defined sustainability goals compared to a year ago, but this is still just over half (54%). Some are unsure, but 30% are not looking at sustainability at all. This number rises to 38% when looking only at North American planners.

On a positive note, 80% of those with sustainability goals consider them when selecting destinations. However, only 15% require vendors to have sustainability certification across the board, with 39% sometimes enforcing this.

Breaking down sustainability goals, reducing waste, and locally sourced food are the most common. Carbon tracking and offsetting is also popular, but more for European respondents.

The survey gathered responses from 200 corporate and third-party planners, mainly based in North America. Read the full results here.