A recent “pulse survey” by the Incentive Research Foundation on the impact of COVID-19 on incentive travel award programs uncovered some surprisingly good news: organizations value incentive travel award programs, and budgets for these hard-earned awards are largely being protected.

“The results of this survey are encouraging and demonstrate that organizations increasingly recognize the value of incentive travel as an investment in driving business results,” says Stephanie Harris, IRF president. “During this time of tremendous uncertainty and extraordinary work circumstances, individuals need to feel valued and recognized for their contributions more than ever whether through incentive travel or via other recognition programs.”

The IRF conducted the survey during the first two weeks of April and more than 250 incentive providers participated. It found that 61.5 percent of incentive trips originally planned for the first or second quarters of 2020 have been postponed into the third or fourth quarters or into 2021. Of those indicating they had postponed their incentive travel reward, 70.25 percent noted no changes have been made to their budget. Among those working with reduced budgets, they are scaling back offsite events and activities, reducing the number of program nights and scaling back entertainment.

Among those cancelling their programs, 75 percent indicated they were recognizing winners in other ways, with the most common award substitutions, in order of popularity, being merchandise, cash, individual travel and gift cards. Also, when asked about the current qualifying period, 64 percent of respondents indicated that they were not making changes to their current fiscal year earning period qualification criteria and timing.

To download the full report, click here.