Incentive travel has had a tumultuous ride in recent years. We spoke with Barbara Scofidio, the editor of Corporate Meetings & Incentives magazine recently about these trends. CMI (which is published by PROMO P&I parent company Primedia) celebrates its 25th anniversary this month.
What were the top destinations for incentive travel 25 years ago?
SCOFIDIO: Many are the same as today. Hawaii was clearly the favorite, followed by the Caribbean, California, Florida, and the Bahamas. Those are all still extremely popular. Emerging destinations for international programs today are Central America (especially Costa Rica), South Africa, and Budapest and the Czech Republic in Central Europe. Another area that has taken off is cruising, because of its all-inclusive pricing structure, the perception that it is a safe form of travel, and the fact that companies have a captive audience, if you will. Also, a huge percentage of the population has yet to take a cruise.
On the down side, incentive travel to Europe has been hit hard by the weakening dollar, which is only expected to continue.
PROMO P&I: Your anniversary issue has a technology timeline. What would you say have been the most significant tech developments affecting travel and incentive planners?
SCOFIDIO: Wow, where do I begin? I would say the development of the first online meeting registration tools in the mid ’90s is a huge one. Also, the first Web-based RFP (request for proposal) tools for booking meeting space and rooms, as well as the online booking sites, which really took off in the past three to four years. Just last year, for the first time ever, Hilton had more online bookings than phone calls—and this will only continue. Of course, the effect of the Internet on everything we do is beyond measure: Do you believe there were only 130 Web sites in 1993?!
PROMO P&I: Meeting and incentive planners have struggled through the years to be recognized as professionals. Have they succeeded?
SCOFIDIO: Absolutely! Twenty-five years ago, there was no such thing as industry certification. Now, MPI (Meeting Professionals International) has two levels of certification, which has made a big difference. Meeting planners have become meeting professionals, and their role is much more strategic: working with corporate procurement departments, proving the ROI of their meetings, and taking a place at the table when the senior management team sets the objectives of a meeting or incentive program.
You’ll find much more on the magazine’s Web site, CMI.meetingsnet.com.