Incentive travel programs projected to resume in Q2 2021: IRF study

i By August 12, 2020 No Comments

Most incentive travel programs are projected to resume in the second quarter of 2021, according to the Incentive Research Foundation‘s second pulse survey looking at the impact of COVID-19 on incentive travel.

The first survey was conducted by the IRF in April 2020. The second survey was in the field July 1-15, 2020. Comparing data, the IRF also found the rate of program cancellation for 2020 had increased by 70 percent.

“Although incentive travel has been postponed, employee motivation and recognition continue to be critically important during these challenging times,” said Stephanie Harris, president, IRF. “Incentive program owners are shifting their 2020 strategies to focus on virtual recognition events and providing alternate awards—while planning a return to incentive travel in 2021.”

Other key findings in COVID-19’s Impact on the Incentive Travel Industry (July 2020) include:

  • The rate of cancellations for incentive travel programs in 2020 is 42.5 percent, compared to 25 percent reported in April.
  • The second quarter of 2021 is the soonest incentive trips will be held for most program sizes.
  • Q4 2020 may see some smaller (fewer than 50 participants) programs taking place with 27 percent of survey respondents indicating they were planning programs in the timeline.
  • Very large groups (1,000+ participants) are primarily indicated for Q3 and Q4 2021.
  • Of those who postponed their incentive travel reward, 79 percent noted that there had been no change in their budget, an increase of nine percent over the April findings.
  • Among those cancelling their programs, 78 percent were providing alternative awards, including points, gift cards, merchandise and individual travel options.
  • Attendee sentiment, e.g. willingness to travel, was the leading decision factor for moving forward with operating an incentive travel program.
  • Other factors impacting the decision include confidence in safety and health policies at destination property (75 percent); quarantine requirements upon arrival at destination and return home (69 percent); and company travel restrictions/policy (67 percent).

The full report is available for download on