Economic recovery is providing a boost to those in the motivation industry, according to the Pulse Survey from the Incentive Research Foundation (IRF), which noted a 13-point increase among respondents who characterize the economy as having a positive impact on their ability to plan and implement incentive travel and merchandise programmes (56% compared to 43% six months earlier). This article is copyright 2013 The Best Customer Guide.

A full 82% of those respondents expect incentive travel budgets will stay the same or increase in 2013, painting a much rosier picture of an industry that has suffered its share of slings and arrows over the past five years. In addition, innovation is playing a critical role in many incentive programmes these days, either as part of the planning process or as a key outcome. Nearly half of respondents say they have an innovation strategy in place or are looking at one.

The IRF Pulse Survey, which twice a year asks professionals for their opinions on some of the key trends affecting the incentive industry, covers indicators such as budget changes, specific programme elements, incentive travel, merchandise/noncash rewards and other issues that affect programme planning and implementation.

Among the findings from the IRF Spring 2013 Pulse Survey:

  • Social Media and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) continue to be popular enhancements to incentive programmes, although their usage has dipped slightly since September of 2012;
  • Despite the fact that a majority (64%) indicate they use points-based systems for their merchandise/noncash incentive programmes, this figure is down from 82% in the September 2012 Pulse Survey;
  • When asked how budget increases or cuts have affected programme outcomes, 91% of those who increased budgets indicated a corresponding increase in sales results.
  • 39% of respondents anticipate no change with respect to destinations for incentive travel programmes this year, and 17.5% say they will pick locations closer to home, while 16.8% will select domestic rather than international destinations with the move away from international travel stabilizing;
  • When asked which specific regions they will likely choose for their incentive travel programmes, 42% of respondents selected North America, 34% said Central/South America, 32% selected the Caribbean, and 31% chose Europe; and,
  • Top product categories in merchandise-based incentive programmes are Electronics (61%), Clothing/Apparel (49%), Golf Items (45%), Jewellery/Watches (45%), Luggage (44%) and Housewares (40%).