Incentive Travel Report (2023): A sector adapting to recovery

Sep 22, 2023 | Cyprus, Destination Management, Incentive

As the tapestry of the post-pandemic world unfurls, the leisure travel scene gleams, while its business counterpart threads through uncharted terrains. With global concerns of the environment, tighter wallets, and the surge of virtual gatherings, the landscape of business travel has significantly transformed.
So, how is incentive travel evolving amidst these winds of change? Let’s unravel the nuances and discover how it remains a quintessential tool for motivation and employee connection.

The findings in this article are a Snapshot from the ibtm WORLD – “INCENTIVE TRAVEL REPORT 2023” by Mike Fletcher.

“The definition is changing. We’re seeing businesses re-label incentives to show positive impacts on people, planet, and profit.
– David Taylor, Non-Executive Director of BCD Meetings & Events

The Market Recovery of Incentive Travel

Lending an optimistic view to the future, Allied Market Research estimates that by 2031, the global market value for incentive travel could touch a commendable US$216.8 billion (£174 billion) if the current annual growth rate of 12.1% holds steady. While this projection might seem dwarfed by the hefty US$805 billion (£645.8 billion) valuation of 2017, it’s a beacon of resurgence for this pivotal segment of the MICE industry.

The 2022 Incentive Travel Index (ITI), spearheaded by financial stalwarts such as FICP, IRF, and SITE, forecasts a hearty 48% recovery in participant numbers for incentive travel programs this year, with an anticipated 61% boost come 2024, juxtaposed against 2019’s figures.

The Changing Face of Incentive Travel

As our modern workforces disperse more widely and retaining top talent becomes akin to holding water in our hands, the role of incentive travel has undergone a metamorphosis in our post-Covid realm. Not just a cherry on the cake for over-performers, it’s become a cornerstone in sculpting company culture and amplifying employee engagement.

Diving deeper, the ITI reveals that a whopping 67% cite ‘Retention of Employees’ as the top reason restoring incentive travel’s strategic prominence. Cast your mind back to a time when incentive travel was the golden carrot dangling in front of top salespeople. They’d hustle and compete, vying to bag that coveted long-haul travel experience by smashing targets or raking in maximum revenue.

But as Bob Dylan rightly crooned, “The times, they are a-changin’.” Today, 66% of incentive travel agencies underscore the importance of the “softer” facets. It’s not just about the race to the finish line anymore. It’s about inclusivity, forging peer relationships, and yes, even having the choice to take a partner on that all-expenses-paid trip. These once-overlooked aspects have now stepped into the spotlight, reshaping the foundation of corporate reward and recognition programs.

Wellness and Sustainability in Program Design

Today’s incentives professional is no longer just a travel coordinator but a wellness and sustainability advocate. With the rising tide of workplace challenges like loneliness, stress, and burnout, there’s a marked shift towards incorporating time-off excursions that focus on holistic wellness.

To underscore this shift, 35% of the global respondents to the ITI emphasized the escalating importance of wellness activities. Moreover, 44% have highlighted the significance of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in team-building initiatives. Almost half of the respondents outside of North America have admitted to placing greater emphasis on sustainable travel modes.

Destination preferences are also evolving.

Buyers outside North America are showing increased interest in places like: 

North Americans  seem to be leaning towards nearby locales:

Which Sectors are Prioritising Incentive Travel?

A closer look reveals that the ‘Finance and Insurance’ sector is taking the lead, with 63% of agencies placing it among their top three clientele. Sectors like SaaS (48%), Pharmaceutical and Healthcare (39%), Direct to Consumer (27%), and Automotive (22%) also find a prominent place in the incentive travel itinerary.

Challenges Looming on the Horizon

Every silver lining comes with a cloud. Agencies express concerns over talent shortages, inflation, and limited hotel availability. A staggering 85% of North American ITI respondents and 73% from other regions cite inflation and burgeoning travel costs as primary worries. However, in the face of these challenges, the industry is not just adapting but flourishing. Experiential, authentic, and unforgettable travel experiences, once the icing, are now the cake’s main ingredient. The era of private access to popular venues, exclusive guides, and exceptional meals in surprising locales has dawned, rendering these experiences invaluable.

“Program design continues to evolve and we can see shifting preferences impacting what’s now included…sustainability and CSR opportunities are considered more important by industry professionals outside of North America.”
– Stephanie Harris, President of IRF

Navigating the labyrinth of post-pandemic changes, incentive travel has not only adapted but thrived, reshaping its contours to align with the zeitgeist of our times. It’s more than just a reward; it’s a testament to adaptability, resilience, and the innate human desire for meaningful experiences.

Cyprus, with its pristine landscapes and rich heritage, is aligning with the future of incentive travel. It’s not just about the location, but the experiences: from wellness retreats by the Mediterranean to innovative sustainable practises.

As the world of business travel evolves, Cyprus stands ready to offer both memorable moments of the past and forward-thinking experiences of the future. Interested in crafting a unique journey?

Connect with us at TravelPlus at and let’s explore the potential together.

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