The Incentive Research Foundation yesterday announced the release of "COVID-19 and Disruption in the Incentive Travel, Meetings and Events Industry: Adaptation and Recovery." The report reviews threats to running incentive programs, including COVID-19, weather, travel hazards, politics and economic downturns. With a focus on the impact of COVID-19 on the industry, the report provides strategies for business survival and recovery.
“As we plan for recovery and a return to in-person meetings and travel, safety concerns prevail,” said IRF president Stephanie Harris. “This study provides actionable advice from industry leaders on how to rebuild incentive programs through strategic collaborations with clients, participants, hotels and resorts, DMCs and partners.”
The publication is based on panel discussions with 36 industry leaders, poll results from 250 more, and survey findings from 791 respondents from around the world. Key findings include:
- According to an April 2020 IRF survey, the top concerns about participating in work or reward-related travel were the threat of an epidemic/pandemic at 33 percent, closely followed by severe weather at 29 percent.
- People are beginning to anticipate and crave travel, with a focus on new experiences at safe destinations within driving distance or that involve shorter flights.
- International travel, especially in large groups, might not return to previous norms until a vaccine and/or an effective treatment for COVID-19 is developed and made widely available.
- Program owners who postponed incentive travel programs expressed a strong need to continue recognizing and rewarding outstanding employees. When incentive travel programs were cancelled, they were often replaced by points, merchandise and/or gift cards.
- Using 9/11 and the Great Recession as reference points, and assuming a vaccine is available next year, the industry might expect and plan for a return to pre-COVID-19 revenues by late 2022 or early 2023.
Despite challenges, postponements and program changes, study participants consistently emphasized the importance of incentives. “We know that travel incentives are among the most cherished rewards. This will only be heightened," said an incentive reward program designer during an interview for the study. "The pandemic has reminded people of their vulnerability. It will give them a sense of living, that life is precious, and they must get out from behind the desk to appreciate it.”
To download a copy of the full study, visit COVID-19 and Disruption study webpage.