Incentive Travel Trends from the Site Global Conference
Earlier this week, I attended the Site Global Conference in Orlando. Site, the incentive travel industry’s association, is celebrating 40 years of connecting “motivational experiences with business results.”
The association provides not only networking opportunities for travel planning executives and supplier partners, but also serves as the voice of the industry, establishing best practices and producing research on travel as a motivator.
In addition to accepting our Crystal Award for Most Outstanding Single Motivational Event and riding four rollercoasters in ten minutes at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios, I also was able to attend a number of sessions on the state of the industry.
Cruises consistently offer nearly unbeatable value and we have operated a number of very successful cruise programs. I attended the Cruising and Incentives Certificate Course for an update on the state of the industry and to examine how we might overcome some of the logistical challenges we face with cruises.
We have seen a trend towards short duration programs of three to four nights, but many of the most exciting cruise destinations require at least five to seven nights. Recent research shows this to be the number one obstacle for many incentive planners. Additionally, cruise ships are not known for their meeting or private event space, but – when used creatively – their theaters offer some solid possibilities.
There are now more than 30 departure ports in the United States. This means that cruises can be a drive-to option, virtually eliminating the lost travel days and possibly extending the length of the cruise time.
67% of incentive planners reported that they felt their clients would occasionally prefer a cruise over a land program and 91% agreed that cruising is memorable and motivational – absolute necessities in incentive travel. Planners are increasingly offering cruises as an option because of their exceptional value and the desirability of new ships coming on line. We think that we will see more interest in cruises over the next couple of years and will be sure to include them in our mix of recommendations.
Meetings Mean Business
The travel industry is very sensitive to changes in the economy. During the economic downturn, the United States Travel Association (USTA) joined forces with other industry associations, including Site, to form the Meetings Mean Business Coalition.
In his presentation on the direction of the organization, Larry Luteran of Hilton Worldwide and a Meeting Means Business Coalition member, made the point that “good data needs a good story” and that to continue to thrive, it will be necessary to keep both front of mind.
This industry group’s mission is to make the case for business travel as a major driver in the economy. They have worked closely with policy-makers and business leaders to spread the word about the economic value of face-to-face meetings and events. Not only is the industry one of the largest employers in the global economy, but meeting and incentives are proven to drive business success.
Larry announced a new campaign to provide those both inside and outside of the travel industry with the data and the story they need to support the business case for incentive travel, even in the improving economy. More is to come on this soon!
As an industry, we are looking forward to a successful 2014 of exciting programs which will really connect to participants and organizational values.