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Top 5 Trends in Incentive Travel: A Chat with Michael Rego, Vice President Sales at Elevate Incentives, Meetings and Events

As the incentive travel industry continues to flourish, destinations and their networks of hotels and resorts are continuously looking to innovate in hopes of attracting a lucrative market of big-spending incentive programs.

According to the Incentive Research Foundation (IRF), nearly 40 percent of U.S. businesses now use incentive travel to reward and recognize their top performing employees, salespeople, and channel partners. These travelers spend more than leisure travelers – the average incentive travel budget has increased four percent since 2014, with each traveler spending on average between $3,000 and $4,000 per trip.  Incentive planners are also increasingly expanding their destinations to include less conventional but still desirable places, in addition to combining luxury travel with authentic experiences.

Michael Rego, Vice President Sales at Elevate Incentives. Meetings. Events

To stay current with this ever-evolving industry, travel brands must keep up to date with what trends are fueling incentive travel. To learn more about these trends, we spoke with Michael Rego, Vice President of Sales at Elevate Incentives, who has more than 30 years of experience working with group incentive and meeting travel.  Rego focuses on developing performance improvement strategies and programs for a variety of companies, making him an expert in how hotels and destinations can attract incentive travel. We chatted with Rego to learn about what trends are moving the MICE industry, and what meeting planners can expect to see when planning incentive trips on behalf of clients – here are his top five upcoming trends:

1. Clients are becoming more aware than ever of extra fees from hotel companies.

“Clients are taking a closer look and have an increased awareness of extra hotel fees,” Rego explains. “[These include fees] such as internet, service fees, mandatory gratuities, AV kickbacks to hotel.”

With budgetary concerns being the primary setback for companies when choosing incentive travel options, it is becoming essential for hotels and resorts to be upfront with costs when it comes to incentive travel.

 2. Technology is increasingly an important part of the incentive travel experience.

“Demographics of attendees are changing and getting younger,” says Rego. “The use of technology is now very important — technology such as mobile apps, social walls, virtual reality and iPad check-in.”

Technology continues to change the way we travel, from before the travel is booked to after the trip is over – changing not only the way we communicate with others and share our unique experiences, but also how we navigate our hotel stay, excursions and more. Travel brands should continuously adapt their approach integrating technology into the visitor experience to ensure guests have a seamless and personalized travel experience. DMOs can look to offer destination apps that are branded with the corporate logo and are customized to include the incentive program itinerary. The Minor Group’s Anatara Riverside Bangkok hotel offers complimentary Android smartphones with access to free data and phone calls to guests, allowing incentive delegates to navigate Bangkok and stay in touch with each other throughout the trip.

 3. Incentive travelers are increasingly aware of the global and political climate of a destination.

“Clients are very aware of safety and global issues which are driving destination decisions and program component decisions,” explains Rego.

The political and global climate of a destination is undoubtedly a key factor in a client’s decision to choose a destination for an incentive trip. Global events like major elections, acts of terrorism and natural disasters are inescapable factors which are difficult to predict, but nonetheless continue to be obstacles for destinations when attracting companies for incentive travel.

CVBs/DMOs should be ready to address planners’ concerns with honest responses and when necessary, provide testimonials of successful incentive programs in the destination in recent months.

 4. International travel is gaining popularity.

As business becomes increasingly globalized, the same is true for incentive travel reward and recognition programs. According to the IRF, over three-quarters of incentive travel program owners will run at least one program outside of the United States in 2017.

“We see a move to more international destinations and moving further from the US,” says Rego.

According to a 2017 outlook study by the IRF, the most commonly selected destinations for incentive group travel after the United States are Canada, the Caribbean, Mexico and Europe – though this is rapidly expanding to include Asia as budgets and length of programs increase.

5. Add-ons and concessions are a becoming a greater selling point.

“More clients are focusing on value adds and concessions such as suites, internet, F&B, comp rooms, AV and more,” says Rego.

Companies’ increasing focus on providing their incentive travelers with the complete experience is fueling their decision to purchase complete packages rather than just hotel rooms. With all-inclusive properties now rivaling four and five star hotels, many companies are choosing all-inclusives to simplify budgets and itineraries, as well as provide guests with an experience that won’t cost them anything additional out-of-pocket. CVBs/DMOs can help win incentive business by offering creative and valuable opportunities to clients, such as expedited passport lanes at the airport, cultural performances at receptions or hosting events at special venues in the destination that are generally off-limits to the public.


How is your destination responding to these trends? Let us know by sending us a Tweet at @aboutdci.


Hannah Khan contributed to this blog post. 

Written By

Pam Balakian

Pam boasts almost 30 years of experience in the Hotel Sales & Marketing Industry. She joined the team 25 years ago after working for Scott Calder Intl, a hotel sales & marketing firm that specialized in marketing & sales of deluxe hotels worldwide.

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