A new report
by the Incentive Research Foundation, COVID-19 and
Disruption in the Incentive Travel, Meetings and Events
Industry: Adaptation and Recovery, looks at how the pandemic and
other disruptors — weather, travel hazards, politics and economic downturns — threaten
incentive programs. The findings are based on panel discussions with 36 industry
leaders and the results of two recent polls; the report also offers advice and recovery strategies for programs.
- 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 the programs were cancelled,
they were often replaced by points, merchandise and/or gift cards.
- Assuming a vaccine is available
next year, the industry could plan for a return to pre-COVID-19 revenues by late
2022 or early 2023.
and relationships with hotels and venues are critical to recovery -- and to the
opportunity to do business in the future. Play the long game by postponing -- not cancelling -- travel, based on participants' comfort level. And offer solutions
for alternate forms of recognition, including merchandise, gift cards and
- Planners and managers should be ready to
respond to their program participants’ new needs. Start building an inventory of
local, safe, outdoor and experiential destinations that you can discuss with
clients. Look at resort buy-outs, ground transportation, charter flights, new
room set ups and virtual options.
concerns prevail: Emphasize cleaning, social distancing, health assessments and
scans, and the presence of physicians at meetings and events. Work with
partners, including DMCs, that have relationships with restaurants,
entertainment venues, suppliers, local government, police, health care and
emergency response at the destination. Identify virtual- and hybrid-event
“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