Incentive Market Optimism Rises

Survey Polled More Than 2,000

Incentive Market Optimism RisesEconomic recovery in the U.S. is leading corporate incentive planners to increase their optimism about the remainder of 2013, according to a new survey from the Incentive Research Foundation (IRF). The study, which polled more than 2,000 program planners, suppliers and buyers, reports a 13-point increase among respondents who characterize the economy as having a "positive impact" on their ability to plan and implement incentive travel and merchandise programs – 56% vs. 43% six months ago.

A full 82% of those respondents expect incentive travel budgets will stay the same or increase in 2013, a positive sign for a market that had been hit hard over the past five years. In fact, 37% say incentive travel budgets will increase for the remainder of 2013, while only 18% are expecting decreases to their expenditures. In addition, innovation is playing a critical role in many incentive programs these days, either as part of the planning process or as a key outcome. Nearly half of respondents say they have an innovation strategy in place or are looking at one.

Of those incentive buyers who plan non-cash rewards programs, 31% say they're adding different merchandise this year, 30% are including experiential events as rewards, and 26% are planning to increase the value of merchandise awards in the coming months. According to the IRF survey, the top product categories in merchandise-based incentive programs are electronics (61%), apparel (49%), golf items (45%), jewelry/watches (45%), luggage (44%) and housewares (40%).