How Supplier Issues are Affecting Incentive Travel

A new study reveals that while incentive travel is growing, planners are concerned about staffing shortages, service levels and cost increases.

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Incentive travel is on the upswing for 2022 and beyond, according to to a new Incentive Research Foundation survey. Open for Business: Incentive Expectations and Reality in the Hospitality Industry also revealed how issues including supplier staffing shortages, service levels and cost increases are hampering the planning and execution of incentive travel programs.

The study, conducted between April and June, garnered a total 710 responses from incentive planners and suppliers, including hoteliers, tourism board/convention & visitors bureaus, and destination management companies. 

Among the key findings was that a number of supplier issues are affecting planners' abilities to deliver prepandemic-level programs. They are falling short on RFP turnaround: Planners expect responses to their RFPs within a few days; 50 percent of hoteliers reported their average response time was within a day or two, while 47 percent of DMCs meet that goal. 

Staffing is another sore point. While hotels report the most success in staffing to pre-Covid levels, only about half (49 percent) of properties report they're back to that level. DMCs are struggling even more to staff up, with just 26 percent at pre-Covid levels.

When asked what they what they want from suppliers, incentive professionals cited the need for honest, transparent conversations during the sourcing and planning process; increased responsiveness to win and keep business; and more clarity around pricing and service availability.

"Incentive travel planners are on the front end of the demand, pushing partners to deliver on needs," said IRF president Stephanie Harris. "Unfortunately, many partners, including hotels, destination management companies and tourism boards, continue to struggle with labor and readiness challenges. Transparency on both sides is required to help set up everyone for success."