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Per couple? Total trip budget for all travelers? How much for a fantastic incentive trip to Hawaii, the Caribbean, or Europe? All are common questions.

Incentive Trip Budget Advice

Based on industry research, a wise budget for an incentive travel program is $5,500 per person.  The $5,5o0 budget includes a typical incentive trip lasting 6 days and 5 nights, within North America (Caribbean, Mexico, Canada, or the US48), at an “incentive quality” 4-star or 5-star resort, airfare, 2 sponsored activities, all meals, welcome reception, award dinner, collateral, and incentive travel planning services.

If the incentive group travels farther to Hawaii or Europe, add $1,000 per person for higher airfares.  If the incentive trip upgrades to a high-end 5-star resort, enhances attendee gifts, or adds more ”wow” elements, then increase the budget by another $500 – $2,000 per person.

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Incentive Travel Cost Benchmarks

The average cost of an incentive travel program is $5,193 Per person (according to the IRF/SITE/FICP Incentive Travel Index).

This inaugural joint Incentive Travel Outlook from the Incentive Research Foundation (IRF), Society for Incentive Travel Excellence (SITE), and Financial & Insurance Conference Professionals (FICP) conducted the industry’s most extensive survey ever of the incentive travel market. It is the most recent study with a large enough survey size to produce reliable benchmarks.

The comprehensive study reported different average cost figures based on their deep-dive analysis of vertical industries and trip types.

  • The overall average incentive travel program was $6,040 per person across all industries and types of travel (air/resort, cruise lines, all-inclusive resorts, etc.).
  • The joint study revealed that corporate buyers have a higher average of $8,151, which was inflated by the financial & insurance respondents who generally have high-end broker trips.
  • The best benchmark cost average is $5,193 per person for those trips managed by incentive travel agencies because (a) agency-managed trips represent a broader cross-section of industries, destinations, and trip qualities; (b) agencies recommend best practices to increase overall engagement and satisfaction; and (c) the data demonstrates that partnering with an incentive travel agency reduces costs. Here is a suggestion of when to hire an incentive travel company.

Industry-Specific Incentive Trip Budgets

In two “signature studies” on Top Performing Companies, the IRF research reported the best Financial Services Firms spent $6,438 per person, and the average incentive trip for top Technology companies is $6,833 per person.

Budget Commentary

The average cost of $5,193 is likely pulled lower by shorter duration trips within the Continental US48. For example, 3 nights to Las Vegas for a call center incentive trip or a top performer trip for retail store managers. Alternatively, the financial services industry (including insurance companies and financial advisory firms) is known for top-tier trips to recognize their top producers. Technology companies, which had the highest average cost, are often global organizations with travelers arriving from Asia, Europe, and North America, which increases airfare costs. Thus, Brightspot believes the average cost of $5,193 is the best middle-of-the-road budget.

Budget Factors

Incentive trips vary widely based on CEO preference, destinations, trip inclusions, number of nights, and overall quality.  Here and the major cost drivers and quick comments.

  • Destination – Most US companies rotate between Mexico, the Caribbean, and Hawaii, whereas global companies often rotate Europe, the Caribbean, Hawaii, and occasionally Asia or Oceania. For first-time programs, all-inclusive resorts in Mexico are the best value.  See top incentive travel destination list.
  • Duration – For years, a 5-night trip was the norm, but in this fast-paced world, many companies are shortening their club trip to 4 nights to reduce costs and get the top sales reps back in the field selling more quickly.
  • Hotel star rating – Most companies say they want a 5-star resort, but some will settle for 4.5 stars or even a high-quality 4-star hotel in a fabulous destination.
  • Meals – Most trips include all meals, except some customer and partner trips will give attendees more free time without structured events or hosted meals.
  • Activities – Typically, every other day includes a company-hosted off-site excursion, such as golf, spa, catamaran, zipline, or ATVs. The day at leisure to enjoy the resort has risen in popularity to allow attendees an opportunity to decompress and help the trip budget too.
  • Gifts – In recent years, the traditional room drop of smaller gifts has been replaced by a high-quality gifting experience upon arrival, such as Maui Jim sunglasses or Tommy Bahama shopping experiences.
  • Originating Cities – The home location of winners is the new surprise for many global sales organizations, when larger quantities of winners are flying from other continents at higher airfares.
  • Unique Experiences – Finally, many companies and incentive agencies are creatively offering unique, localized experiences in each destination that leisure travelers might not be able to do on their own.

Get More Money

The common takeaway from every new IRF and SITE study is this recurring tip – “get more budget.” In the last three annual studies, companies increased per-person spending by approximately +5%. In 2022, “vacation inflation” surged after Covid lockdowns produced revenge travel with rapid rises in demand for incentive group travel and an even more significant jump in consumer travel. Travel inflation has been reported at 30%-40% for airfares and 10%-20% for hotels and dining.

Creating challenges for incentive planners, recent studies reported that planners feel their travel costs are increasing faster than budgets – placing them in a difficult position when it’s harder and harder to find bargains in a strong market for hoteliers.

Suggestion – Stomp into the CFO’s office with these studies rolled in your hand, pound a fist on the desk, and yell, “our club trip needs 20% more budget!”

Incentive Travel Budget Estimator

The Brightspot website has one of the coolest trip estimating tools.  This interactive pricing calculator lets a user pick a destination, the number of nights, hotel star rating, included meals, number of activities, and the value of room gifts.  Voila!  A little website magic occurs, and an estimated budget per person is calculated.  Load your winner count, and the handy tool outputs your grand investment total.  Theorycraft your next incentive trip to your heart’s content!

Cost of Agency Help

If your incentive travel group is larger than 40 people (20 qualifiers and 20 guests), an incentive travel company can save money, add creativity, avoid common mistakes, free up internal management, and add impeccable service.

Most companies wonder if hiring an incentive travel company is more expensive, but they discover it’s a “zero net cost.”  They learn that the agency fees of 15%-20% are offset by savings from lower rates on hotels; local partnerships with discounts on transportation, activities and dining; and avoiding hidden costs ahead of time.

Learn more about the cost of hiring an incentive travel company.

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Mike May

Author Mike May

Mike is a wearer of many hats. President of Brightspot, author of 12.5 Steps to a Perfect Incentive Program, past Chairman of the Incentive Research Foundation (IRF), and recognized as one of the Top 25 Most Influential People in the Incentive Industry. His expertise includes bucket-list incentive trips, motivational incentive program design, matching event goals with the perfect destination & hotel, cost savings strategies, global channel reward programs, and targeted communications. Mike maintains his certifications in many specialties including Certified Meeting Professional (CMP), Certified Incentive Travel Professional (CITP), and Incentive Professional (IP).

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