• October 27, 2016

Incentive Travel Rallies in Post-Recession Economy

If your company is like many all over the world, your MICE budget took a major hit during the global economic downturn. Incentive travel professionals feared the worst, worrying that it might take the better part of a decade for companies to start returning to pre-recession MICE spending levels. While many areas continue to struggle with recovery, it’s been surprising to see how rapidly incentive and MICE travel budgets have recovered. MeetingsNet conducts an annual survey of US companies, and its analysis of the 2015 data has been very encouraging.

Per-Person Incentive Travel Spending


In 2008 the average per-person spending on incentive travel was at $3,659. This figure then steadily decline for seven long years, much to the consternation of MICE professionals everywhere. The low was in 2014, when per-person incentive travel spending was just $2,397. This made the figure for 2015 a very pleasant surprise when it came in at $3,046. While it’s true that a single year of data does not mean it’s a trend (it could just be an anomaly), it is still a very good sign and has many in the MICE industry breathing a sigh of relief to see the first substantial increase since the recession. And the good news is that the increase seems to carrying forward into 2016 so far, with per-person incentive travel averaging $3,165 as of this past April.

Incentive Travel Budgets

Not everyone, however, is enjoying the upward trend. During 2015, nearly 54% of companies saw an increase in their incentive travel budgets, but while overall spending in 2016 is up, only 38% of companies have seen their budgets increase. How MICE planners react to changing budgets varies widely. In the face of a shrinking budget, many planners adjust by making trips shorter (about 55% of planners do this), while others reduce the on-site gift budget or avoid five-star properties. Additional strategies include eliminating guest participants, off-season bookings, and fewer sponsored activities. For the companies that experience increasing budgets, their spending strategies also vary widely, but the most common reaction isn’t what you might expect. Rather than simply increasing the length of trips, the most popular strategies are adding in more “wow” factors, upping the luxury factor, and increasing the food and beverage spending on trips.

Destinations for Incentive Travel

When asked about their 2016 incentive travel destinations, here’s how the data came out (note that most companies utilize several destinations per year for different programs):


It should come as no surprise that Caribbean destinations are among the most popular. After all, you’re almost guaranteed perfect weather and a huge variety of activities from which to choose. Managing all of that, however, can become a real headache for MICE planners, which is why it makes sense to partner with an on-site destination management company that knows everything needed about your destination. Contact ECO DMS now for a free quote for your next Aruba MICE travel initiative!