Financial and insurance meetings and incentives are thriving, according to new research. Larger groups, increasing budgets and a higher-than-average spend rate for participants are among the findings revealed by the latest Incentive Travel Industry Index, a joint study by SITE, the Incentive Research Foundation and Financial & Insurance Conference Professionals. Those findings were mirrored in the most recent pulse study conducted by FICP.
Following, Successful Meetings takes a closer look at this research to identify the major trends shaping the world of financial and insurance events today.
Top Trends in Financial and Insurance Meetings
Budgets Are on the Rise (But So Are Costs)
More than half (54 percent) of the respondents to the Incentive Travel Industry Index reported their budgets are increasing, albeit slightly. However, several planners Successful Meetings spoke with say the larger budgets aren’t keeping pace with rising costs for high-ticket items like hotels, airfare, and food and beverage.
The Index found that median spending per participant for financial/insurance incentive programs is $5,000, one of the highest rates in the incentive industry, where the average spend in other sectors is $1,000 less per person.
Attendee and Incentive Qualifier Numbers are Growing
The Index found that the number of attendees of financial meetings is growing, as is the number of qualifiers for financial-company incentives. Experts attribute the increasing ranks to several factors:
- Optimism in the economy
- Company mergers
- The inclusion of nonsales employees in the programs
Referencing the latter, Tina Weede, CITP, president and CEO of Peerless Performance and vice president, research and content, for the SITE Foundation, says, “F&I companies today realize their success is not just down to top salespeople. Others in the organization — the middle performers, as well as support staff — all have a role.”
It's Not Only About Money
While sales and profitability remain the top reasons for F&I companies to run incentive programs, today more weight is being given to building relationships between management and employees, increasing productivity and employee engagement.
According to Padraic Gilligan, SITE’s chief marketing officer, the most interesting finding from the Index, which paid significant attention to F&I programs, is the new focus on incentives as a builder of company culture. “We’ve always known that this was a by-product of a well-organized and -managed incentive travel experience, but to see it listed as a key objective was a nice surprise,” he says. “One of the biggest challenges for businesses these days is how to create great places to work. “Incentive travel, clearly, plays a cornerstone role in this,” Gilligan adds.
Building brand loyalty is a particularly important objective for insurance companies, whose products are sold by independent agents who offer products from several brands. “Our goal through incentives is to try to build emotional connection to a brand,” notes Weede.
Apps and Polls Are the Technology of Choice
Event-specific apps dedicated to enhancing the attendee experience were the event technology used most often for F&I meetings and incentives, according to FICP research, while many firms have added audience-engagement platforms such as electronic polling and/or surveys to their agendas.
Travel: There's No Place Like Home
Financial and insurance events are sticking closer to home, with more firms choosing to hold their events in the United States rather than going to international destinations. The top criteria for incentive site selection, according to FICP findings, is (in order of relevance):
- Destination appeal
- Safety of the destination
- Value for the money
Other findings in the travel niche cited by experts include the five following travel trends.
1. New Cities
There’s a new focus on second- and third-tier destinations. This is driven both by budget (for example, dollars go further in Charleston, S.C., than in New York City) and safety concerns.
2. Eye on Experiential
On the accommodations front, participants’ interest in seeking unique experiences is leading some planners to choose independent hotels over chain properties.
All-inclusive properties are getting a boost. Both the Index and recent IRF research point to this finding. “I find they are used when budgets are more restricted and when a company is looking at a first-time incentive program,” says Jenn Glynn, managing partner of Meeting Encore Ltd. and Intuitive Conferences & Events Inc., as well as president-elect for SITE. “More established incentive programs want more flexibility and personalization, so that they can experience the destination and not just one hotel,” adds Glynn.
Wellness, including yoga, is now a top inclusion for incentive planners; golf events — walking the course or holding a cocktail party on the greens with a pro, rather than hosting tournaments — also are popular program elements. Says Glynn: “With multigenerational qualifiers on one incentive program, we are seeing more unstructured programming, essentially allowing for attendees to create their own agenda.”
5. Stronger Security
The majority of respondents to the FICP survey said they used in-house security or security consultants for events, with 66 percent indicating they did this for international events and 60 percent citing domestic outings. Weede says companies are relying more than ever on their suppliers, especially destination management companies, to have strong security and emergency plans in place.
Glynn notes that some of her clients are traveling with plainclothes security personnel in tow. Others are sending their security teams to do an assessment of a destination, while still others are eliminating destinations based purely on perception of security risk. They don't want group members to be “not trying” to qualify based on an attendee’s perception of a destination.