The Incentive Research Fund held its annual Education Invitational on June 1-4, hosting about 450 attendees at the Hyatt Ziva and Hyatt Zilara Cap Cana in the Dominican Republic. During the event, the IRF revealed its latest studies, including the "Destinations and Their Impact on Motivation" survey, which will be released in a couple of weeks.
"Destination travel and incentive travel has never been more popular," said Rick Garlick, chief research advisor for IRF, who presented the results with Susan Adams, vice president of travel and engagement at Next Level Performance, and secretary and treasurer for the IRF.
The survey of more than 400 incentive professionals and winners found that 91 percent of participants viewed group incentives as extremely or very motivating, and 96 percent viewed individual travel as extremely or very motivating. And while incentive programs are usually packed with activities, 87 percent said that having downtime was an essential aspect of the trip.
A trend that continued from last year's survey was the importance of luxury accommodations, as well as all-inclusive activities and not having any out-of-pocket expenses.
"I think that's really a reflection of inflation," said Adams. "In some places, hotel prices have increased threefold. Restaurant costs are much higher than they used to be. It's harder for people to do those things on their own, so [having everything paid for] becomes even more desirable."
The "Destinations and Their Impact on Motivation" report also looked at top incentive travel destinations for this year, with Hawaii being the most preferred among participants, followed by the Caribbean, the western United States (such as Montana and Wyoming) and western Europe.
Though demand is high for these destinations and incentive travel as a whole, there are a lot of challenges facing the industry, such as staffing shortages, travel restrictions, inflation and a potential recession.
"The reality is, the threat of recession looms," said Stephanie Harris, president of the IRF. "We know incentives can be one of the first things on the chopping block if it's seen as a 'nice to have' vs. a 'need to have,' vs. a strategic imperative."
In addition to its latest findings, the organization also revealed a new logo at the event, marking the first time the brand has been refreshed in two decades. A new website also will be coming soon.
The next IRF Educational Invitational will be held June 4-7, 2023, at the El Conquistador Resort in Puerto Rico.