This is a constant question we get! In fact, we blogged about this topic before but since methods are constantly changing we wanted to explore the topic again.
If you want to get ahead of the planning we recommend starting at least 18 months before your event for a mid-size incentive trip (75+ rooms per night room block) and 2 years lead-time for over 150+ room per night. Though 18 months sounds like a huge chunk of time, there are several reasons why we recommend this :
1. Companies like to announce their next year's trip on the final night of their current year trip. These trips are usually 12-13 months apart. So that is the absolute deadline for these companies to have a solid contract in place for the next year. Unfortunately, the days of getting from planning to contract in 2-3 weeks is over. The average lead time is 12 weeks for mid sized Incentive Travel programs. So we take 13 months, add 3 months for contract sourcing and negotiations and we are already at that 16 month mark. To ensure you can secure the dates at your preferred location on FIRST OPTION hold we recommend 16-18 month lead time to start the planning for your next incentive trip.
2. Another reason is that if the company has not planned 18 months ahead then most of them get energized about the future while on the current year trip. The conversations quickly evolve to "where are we going next year?" and usually lead to quick RFP's either while on-site or during the survey/recap conversations. Again this is usually at that 12-13 month lead time for next year's trip. Instead of waiting for a 12 month rush we recommend 16-18 months to give yourself more inventory options.
3. The third reason is that the overall industry is growing significantly year to year as the tech community continues to become a major player in incentive travel space. It is no longer just pharmaceuticals, financials, and construction industries. Many of the companies who cut incentive travel back during the financial crisis have started to add it back in 2017/2018. The technology community has become a major player in the incentive industry in the past 4 years and the new companies adding incentive trips as part of total compensation is significant. It is also relevant to note that incentive travel is now a piece of C-Level conversations when talking about culture within an organization.
4. The market trend is that the trips are growing in size in terms of number of qualifiers. The more qualifiers, the larger the room blocks, the smaller the remaining hotel room inventory for additional groups.
The Incentive Travel Industry Index released the number of qualifiers is increasing across the board:
Globally 65% of all buyers are increasing the number of qualifiers (58% in US, 67% in EU and 73% in Asia)
Incentive Houses are seeing significant increases in 2017. 54% reported an increase in qualifiers, in 2018 this is 71%
Again this is just based on overall industry recommendations. Companies who are looking to host trips off-season can have a shorter lead-time while companies looking to host trips in popular destinations such as Orlando will have a longer lead time. There are many factors that play a role in determining when to plan your next incentive trip. Most importantly, make sure next year's trip is budgeted during the annual budget approvals as part of a larger sales budget. Once budget is approved there is nothing stopping you from starting the sourcing process!
Editorial Disclosure: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any entity mentioned herein. Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.
As is standard practice, our group of talented and experienced travel agents will often accept hosted stay invitations and hosted dinners and activities within destination in order to facilitate more detailed reviews.