It was heartening to see how SITE Foundation’s annual fundraiser, SITE Classic, took place live & in-person last week at The Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego. They had over 200 participants and managed to raise USD$230k in the amazing online Travel Auction in support of SITE Foundation’s research, education and advocacy programs.

I must say I’m delighted, as research is a fundamental tool that all of us need to obtain. As an industry we’re far too operationally focused. We tend not to see the woods for the trees, and that’s not good. Perspective is hugely important, as is high level vision. We need to be giraffe-like, looking out over the trees, not busy ants scrambling around at the roots.

I downloaded the first Corporate inSITEs study from SITEGlobal (you can get it yourself here) and it makes interesting reading. Of the 50 corporations who participated in the survey, 95% report 100% support for incentive travel on the part of their c-suite. That’s both staggering and consoling.

If we had any doubt that an 18 month drought might damage the high reputation of incentive travel amongst US corporates, then these doubts are dispelled. Corporations that include incentive travel in the reward and recognition programs clearly value it very highly, and remain committed to its use, despite the pandemic pause.

Incentive Research Foundation (IRF) also produces great studies and white papers for our industry like The Impact of Destination Choice on Motivation, launched in late June 2021. With responses from over 400 incentive travel professionals, this study finds the same high levels of enthusiasm for incentive travel as the SITE Foundation study, but sets out some additional findings about destination choice.

Respondents to IRF’s study, taken in Spring 2021, demonstrate a clear preference for destinations that are remote, that closely follow Covid protocols and avoid cities and crowds. These findings, incidentally, mirror the outcomes from Incentive Travel Industry Index 2020 (a joint initiative of SITE Foundation, IRF and FICP) where outdoor, countryside / rural settings - seashore, mountains, lakes, forests - were prioritized over city locations as destinations of choice.

Research like what SITE Foundation, IRF and others have undertaken is hugely instructive as we rebuild for recovery. It provides a direct conduit into the corporate mindset and tells us what they’re thinking, how they see the changing face of incentive travel and, by implication, how we can tailor our products and services to match their evolving needs.

So are you building out new programs that leverage the outdoor, rural aspects to your destination?

Are you working with suppliers to ensure the highest possible health and safety precautions?

Are you finding promotional imagery and video content that highlights natural as opposed to built heritage?

This is what the research is telling us!