by Lisa Grimaldi | October 01, 2011

More than half (59 percent) of the respondents to the Incentive Research Foundation's most recent state-of-the-industry survey expect no changes, due to recent economic conditions, to their incentive travel program budgets in the coming year.

The online study of 134 incentive professionals was conducted in May.

When asked about the involvement of procurement and purchasing in travel programs, a majority of those polled (43 percent) said they anticipate no change, while 34 percent expect a slight increase. Among other key findings:

• Just 3 percent of those polled said their programs have been completely eliminated due to recent economic conditions.

• One quarter of respondents have added CSR components to their programs.

• Seventeen percent of those polled include virtual elements (social media), while 16 percent have used gaming techniques in their motivation programs.
Questions about specific components of programs also indicated that not much change is on the horizon.

• More than half of the respondents (53 percent) anticipated no change in the type of destination they will use in 2012, while 26 percent expected to switch from international to domestic destinations.

• Twenty-eight percent of those polled will reduce the total number of days/nights of their programs, while 25 percent predicted no change in program duration.

• Twenty-nine percent of respondents have considered switching from group travel programs to individual travel rewards.

"What we are seeing is the new normal," said IRF president Melissa Van Dyke. "The general buying outlook for program planners has moved from negative or flat to slightly positive. There's an underlying current of normalization -- even suggesting growing optimism."