by Lisa Grimaldi | October 01, 2004

Rhonda Brewer

Rhonda Brewer

Incentives appear to be regaining some lost ground. According to a recent M&C survey (see the Guide to Incentives supplement, September), 29 percent of planners saw their incentive budgets increase in 2004; for 2005, 28 percent predicted increases over their 2004 budgets.
     “The shift started in late 2003,” said Rhonda Brewer, vice president of pricing and proposals for Fenton, Mo.-based Maritz Travel. “By 2005 or 2006, we anticipate budgets returning to their pre-economic-slump levels.”
Brewer noted some clients who had cut the number of participants over the past few years are now beginning to add more winners, though without yet increasing their budgets. “We’ll get there,” Brewer said. “People are comfortable again in using incentive programs, but not comfortable in investing a lot more money.”
    Yet, for Irving, Texas-based Sunbelt Motivation & Travel, “The dollars are definitely increasing for 2005 business,” observed Bill Boyd, Sunbelt’s president and CEO.
    Meanwhile, some companies that had scrapped their programs, such as Vienna, Va.-based software firm Convera, are reinstating them.
    “We decided to try one again, to see how it went,” said Dale Hazel, Convera’s vice president of marketing, in reference to an awards program launched in mid-2003. The effort did not have the traditional kickoff or promotional campaign, Hazel noted; a destination was not selected until a few months into the contest because, he explained, “We hedged a little to see how people performed.”
    The program was a success, boosting sales by 24 percent, and Convera has formally reinstated the incentive program, with a full kickoff and promotion slated for the 2005 program.