When it’s time to plan your incentive travel program or to defend your recommendation to senior leaders, it can be challenging to know where you stand. How do you know if your program is on-target, and how it compares to other organizations? In a recent joint study, the Incentive Research Foundation (IRF), SITE, and Financial and Insurance Conference Planners (FICP) conducted the largest incentive travel survey to date and came up with a helpful incentive travel program benchmark.

You can find the full study here, but here are some key takeaways identified by the Next Level Performance team are:

What’s the Point of Incentive Travel Programs, Anyway?

The study asked corporate incentive travel program owners to rank the company objectives they sought to address. In order, the top five responses are:

  • Increased sales and/or profitability for the overall company
  • Better relationship building between employees and management
  • Increased individual productivity
  • Improved employee engagement/morale
  • Better relationship building between employees and each other

In the case of channel programs, which account for many of our programs, our clients also indicate these programs:

  • Deepen customer loyalty
  • Increase mindshare
  • Provide important networking opportunities between customers, sales reps, and senior leaders

Most buyers report that programs “are so widely accepted/embedded they do not require ROI” or that the “company can assess success based on increased progress towards the program’s objectives.”

The Average Program

Every company has unique parameters and needs, but program owners are reporting the average program includes:

  • 4 nights if a 4-hour flight, 5 or more nights if farther away
  • 25% of the budget goes to air costs
  • 97% include spouses
  • 79% include wellness components, but only 61% include CSR activities
  • 64% have feature mobile event app
  • 3 most popular destinations for North American companies: Domestic U.S., Caribbean, and Western Europe. Australia/Pacific, which includes Hawaii comes in 4th.

And average per person price?

  • $3,950 across all industries worldwide
  • $6,000 in financial and insurance companies

At Next Level, we see the greatest spend on channel programs in highly competitive industries, including manufacturer distributors and financial services organizations.

Bigger Programs, Bigger Budgets

We see this with our own clients. There’s a greater focus on reaching the widest audience. Earlier research showed that this is a best practice among top performing companies. They consistently strive to inspire people throughout the organization, offering recognition and rewards to everyone from the newest sales person to the operations team. After all, a well-designed incentive program pays for itself with increased incremental revenue.

Here’s what the study found:

  • 48% of program owners report an increase in the number of people eligible for rewards
  • 46% reported budget increases this year

Incentives, recognition, and engagement are important and established components of business strategy. And incentive travel programs are proven motivators that provide myriad opportunities to communicate your company’s message. The exceptional experience becomes synonymous with your brand and affects performance before, during, and after the qualifying period. How does your annual trip stack up to the incentive travel program benchmark?

Our award-winning programs help our clients exceed their goals. We’d love to talk to you about taking your programs to the Next Level. Let us know how we can help by contacting us at connect@nxlperformance.com.

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About the author

As Vice President of Engagement at Next Level Performance, Susan serves on the board of the Incentive Research Foundation (IRF), and chairs the IRF Research Committee. She has also served on the board of the Incentive Marketing Association (IMA) and is a past president of the Recognition Council, and a past member of the Performance Improvement Council and the Incentive and Engagement Solution Providers (IESP). She is interested in the strategies and benefits of employee engagement, incentive, and recognition programs. An avid traveler, she is also passionate about the art and science of incentive travel. Favorite travel destinations: Costa Rica, Iceland, Switzerland, and Maine.

Susan Adams
Vice President of Engagement
sadams@nxlperformance.com