by Lisa A. Grimaldi | January 20, 2016

Incentive travel is expected to have another banner year, topping 2015's record numbers, according to the new SITE Index Benchmark Study, an annual analysis and forecast of the incentive travel industry. SITE partnered with trade-show organizer IMEX Group to utilize its database for the survey; the 420 participants included incentive travel buyers, sellers and industry observers. Global research firm J.D. Power conducted the survey. Among the key findings released: Budgets are increasing slightly over 2015, with the median spend per participant at $3,400, and companies are planning to increase their budgets and the number of eligible participants. The buyers polled said they are managing costs through a variety of methods, such as planning shorter programs (34 percent), having fewer inclusions (29 percent) and selecting less expensive destinations (29 percent). The study's full findings will be revealed during a webcast hosted by SITE and J.D. Power on Feb. 8.

Despite a positive outlook for the incentive travel market, caution signs do exist. Among all respondents there is a fairly strong perception that domestic and world events -- specifically airline costs, the world economy and the threat of terrorism -- have the potential to impact the incentive travel industry negatively. When it comes to measuring the success of programs, fewer than one-third always or almost always track the ROI of programs. More than half of the buyers surveyed do not track ROI.

Other findings include:

• Seven out of 10 programs include a CSR activity.

• Forty-two percent of buyers said meetings are "always" included in their incentive travel programs.

• Nearly seven out of 10 sellers of incentive travel services are attempting to add value for their participants through greater creativity and innovative event design.

"The SITE Foundation has been working to improve our research processes, data quality and response rates with the goal of providing deeper insights into why incentive travel is a vital business tool," said Tina Weede, vice president, research and education, SITE Foundation, and president, USMotivation, Atlanta. "The 2015 SITE Index not only demonstrates the business case, but also provides buyers and sellers valuable insights into industry trends and predicts optimism for growth in the global incentive travel industry in 2016. Buyers and sellers of incentive travel will benefit greatly from reviewing the SITE Index, applying the findings and implementing strategies based on information relevant to their business. While times are good, it is vitally important we stay on top of prevailing trends and prepare for the future to ensure that our businesses and the global incentive travel industry remain strong for years to come."

To register for the Site webcast, which will reveal the full results, click here.