The mood was cautiously positive at micebook’s incentives and luxury event last week, buoyed by announcement of the UK’s approval of the Pfizer Covid vaccine, and interim results from the SITE Incentive Travel Industry Index which points to a full recovery for the incentive travel sector within three years.
Around 160 #eventprofs attended the event, which featured a South Africa destination spotlight by The Concepts Collection in collaboration with Green Route, showcased a virtual incentive case study by Strata, as well as panel discussions on The Language of Luxury and the outlook for incentive travel with SITE GB (You can view recordings of all the sessions on our Voice forum here).
Our own snap poll of attendees at the event suggested that incentives may come back quicker than hoped. Almost two-thirds (64%) said they have confirmed incentive bookings for 2021, with 39% revealing they have enquiries and bookings as early as Q2 2021, 46% Q3 and 10% Q4. Prior to last week’s event at previous micebook talks, many event planners had said they didn’t expect incentives to come back until 2022.
Incentives look set to stay closer to home, with 24% saying that clients are looking at the UK, 41% Europe and 12% the Middle East, while the most popular group size is 21-50 (44%), followed by 51-100 (22%), 100+ (19%) and 5-20 (14%).
More than two-thirds (68%) are quietly confident they will go ahead, 18% are very confident and 13% are not very confident. When it comes to virtual incentives, respondents were almost split down the middle, with 49% saying they have or plan to run virtual incentives, while 51% said they haven’t.
Incentive Travel Industry Index
Padraic Gilligan, chief marketing officer at SITE, presented a first look at interim results from the annual Incentive Travel Industry Index (ITII), which revealed that although the pandemic has been disastrous for incentive travel, the impact is mainly temporary.
Global averages for 2020 were at 23% of the 2019 levels – that’s a 77% fall in activity. But this is expected to improve in 2021 (59% of 2019 levels), 2022 (88% of 2019 levels) before full recovery by 2023.
The survey, which had 3,000 submissions from around the globe, was carried out in September and Gilligan says he believes the responses would be different if the survey were carried out now based on the positive vaccine news.
“It’s game changing. It is what we have been hoping and praying for so long. Once it has been approved by a nation like the UK, that is a huge comfort for other nations. The research showed that there is an extraordinary pent up demand to travel again. However until now, it’s been counter balanced by a residual fear,” said Gilligan, adding that the vaccine rollout should help alleviate this fear among corporates that they might be putting their qualifiers in danger.
In terms of other trends, destination choice is changing, with buyers favouring closer to home destinations, but also destinations that are perceived to be safe. There’s good news for the DMC sector, too, with “the presence of a good DMC” ranked third out of 18 possible ways that incentive travel programmes will shift.