Trends and challenges in UK incentive travel

Posted by Jo Kelly

Despite having to endure ever-changing exchange rates, the recovery from the economic downturn, Brexit, and increased terror and security threats, the incentive travel industry is performing extremely well.

Recent research revealed that the industry continues to grow year on year and the trend is forecast to continue into 2019.

CR Worldwide and a number of other agencies and destination management companies are seeing enquiries for incentive travel on the rise and trade is as strong as ever. However, it is not without its challenges, as this article shows.

Key industry numbers

Incentive travel is certainly on the rise, according to Conference & Incentive Travel’s (C&IT) latest report, which involved surveys of 300 UK event planners. Key stats across the market in the Incentive Travel Report 2017, include:

  • 54% of planners said that political stability and safety is the key factor affecting destination choice
  • 76% of planners said that the value of the pound and exchange rates are the biggest threat to the growth of the UK incentive travel market
  • 34% of planners are seeing an increase in long-haul flights
  • 92% of planners expect trip group sizes to remain the same
  • 54% said budgets are the biggest challenge in getting an incentive programme signed off
  • 83% of event planners said they’ll be expected to organise more incentive trips in the coming year
  • 85% suggested that incentive budgets would remain the same
  • 68% said security concerns had impacted destination choices for incentives

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Key incentive travel trends

Unfortunately, over the past couple of years, the UK market has been hit with a number of elements which have had an impact on the travel industry as a whole. We endured Brexit, the decimation of the pound, and various terror attacks in Europe that have unsettled travel buyers. However, despite of all this, CR Worldwide and other corporates remain confident, with Reward & Recognition and Incentive Travel remaining high on the agenda.

Four key trends in incentive travel include:

  1. Incentives are still growing

A large number of agencies are suggesting that they’re expected to organise more incentives in 2017. We are certainly experiencing this trend, at CR Worldwide, as we move through 2018. Our incentive travel events have grown, and we are noticing a trend in new sectors, including FMCG (fast-moving consumer goods) and petroleum clients.

  1. Rewarding more than sales performance

Sales incentives are big business within our industry and remain a key objective of many organisations. However, C&IT has recently reported a shift towards rewarding more non–sales employees, and we have definitely seen requests for this service within our own organisation. Reward & Recognition programmes are becoming more prevalent and frequently include an incentive travel trip for the highest achievers.

  1. Attention to detail is key

Agencies are reporting a trend towards personalisation and running much smaller tailored events for 60-80 people, in recent years, rather than hosting large incentive trips for several hundred people. These smaller tailored events allow the hosts to communicate much more closely with their audience. It also allows the agency to create bucket list ‘memorable’ moments and a story to share for years to come.

Jo Kelly, our Events Operations Director at CR Worldwide, supports this. She says:

“Our organisation supports this and recognises that it’s no longer just about the destination, the hotel, and the activities, etc. It’s about the ‘experience’ a group of people have together. Ensuring each event has its take-away moments and experiences is key and requires thought, planning and creativity.”

  1. Important factors

The most important factors when choosing a destination are reported to be political stability and security, which was at the top of the list. This is followed by price, accessibility, and flight access from the UK. Currently, the weakness of the pound against the US dollar and the euro is causing the most concern for clients. The uplift of this is that destinations that don’t have a euro or dollar attached, like South Africa or Eastern European countries, such as the Baltic states, would benefit somewhat.

Destination trends for incentive travel

Iceland, Croatia, Singapore, Mexico and Canada are among the top most popular incentive destinations, according to C&IT’s 2017 report.

Security threats and fluctuating exchange rates are impacting destination choices for incentive travel more than ever. Destinations like Morocco and Turkey, which were among the hottest places for groups to visit in 2014 and 2015, are now off the pitch list, despite offering excellent value for money. Meanwhile, the likes of Tenerife, southern France and Croatia have emerged as exciting European alternatives.

Iceland is currently one of the most requested incentive destinations in Europe, according to the report, alongside Italy, Spain, Portugal, and Monaco.

See our other incentive travel ideas

Jo Kelly adds:

“CR Worldwide is experiencing similar destination trends, with Vilamoura (Portugal) and Dubrovnik, Split and Hvar (Croatia) topping the bill over the last couple of months. Moving into winter destinations, Iceland is definitely a popular choice, although we are also seeing a rise in ‘winter’ alternatives, such as Tromsø (Norway) and Rovaniemi (Lapland).”

Long-haul trends

The long-haul market is also buoyant – 34% of event planners are seeing an increase in long-haul incentives. The UAE, USA, South Africa and Asian destinations like Thailand, Singapore and Japan are currently the top of wish lists, according to the C&IT report.

New flight routes also offer a number of new destinations that many companies felt were unreachable, before opening up the destination pool further.

To summarise, incentive travel is most definitely on the rise for both Reward & Recognition and channel incentive programmes, and we see this continuing throughout 2018 and 2019. Granted there are challenges with exchange rates and security concerns, etc. However, the memorable experiences, networking and ‘feel good factor’ that incentive travel brings to a programme, brand, and company remain key to driving positive behaviours.

Helping you to provide the best incentive travel

Keeping up with the latest trends, from types of trips to chosen destinations, is key to providing your employees with the best incentive travel experiences that will do more for your business.

At CR Worldwide, incentive travel is one part of the event services we offer. We can quickly, design, develop and implement incentive travel trips, which provide a range of benefits for you and your staff. Our events are:

Easy to implement – They are quick to set up and can be tailored to suit your staff, your needs and business objectives.

Engaging – They aim to quickly enhance loyalty and performance, while creating an emotional bond with your brand, and increasing company awareness.

Easy to manage – They are run and hosted by dedicated managers, who provide exciting schedules of activities and experiences, to help execute the perfect itinerary for your team.

We’d love to excite, engage and inspire your staff with our services in incentive travel. To speak to a member of our award-winning team:

Jo has worked at CR Worldwide as Events Operations Director since 2004. She is responsible for scoping and delivering all types of events, for clients of all sizes, globally. She manages the division’s team who organise and execute award-winning events – ranging from one-off sales floor days, corporate hospitality events and incentive travel trips, to annual conferences and partner summits.