MPI Blog

MPI News

SITE Index Reveals Strength of Travel Industry At MPI’s Smart Monday


Incentive travel budgets are growing and optimism is high despite world events, according to new results released Monday from the SITE Index 2018, the annual Society for Incentive Travel Excellence (SITE) global survey.

Rhea Stagner, CIS, of Maritz Travel and president of the SITE Foundation, and Pádraic Gilligan, managing partner at the consultancy SoolNua in Dublin, Ireland, and SITE Foundation VP of research and content, shared results during Meeting Professional International’s Smart Monday education program at IMEX America in Las Vegas.

“Incentive travel works,” said Stagner as she pointed out the key findings:

• Incentive travel budgets continue to grow
• There are greater investments in technology
• Buyers are attentive to managing costs
• There is increasing importance of sustainability
• Optimism is high despite world events

Although many organizations are keeping a close eye on their budgets, incentive travel spending is on the uptick. Nearly half of incentive travel buyers in the index said their spending on incentive travel is rising. The median spend per person has increased from US$3,000 to $4,000.

“Budgets have increased, yet buyers are looking to reduce costs,” Stagner said. “Sellers add value through greater creative and innovative event design.”

Optimism among respondents was high despite current world events, Stagner said, both around world and national economies among both buyers and sellers. Although the threat of terrorism remains a concern, it decreased compared to 2016.

The comprehensive SITE Index included 574 respondents from 74 countries. It covered challenges for the incentive travel industry, behaviors of buyers and sellers and leading indicators for future trends. Among the respondents, 40 percent were from the U.S., followed by Canada, Mexico and Europe. Forty-three percent of respondents are members of Chicago-based SITE, which has members in more than 84 countries.

The survey showed that there is a greater investment in technology. Production costs, advanced technology, Wi-Fi and other technology features are driving the increased budgets. But technology is becoming an increasingly important part of the development and deployment of programs, whether for communications, budgeting or operations, according to the survey.

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs continue to impact incentive travel planners, with the survey showing both buyers and sellers agreeing that being green has a positive effect. A majority of programs include at least one CSR activity.

Other key findings from the survey:

• Airline costs have improved
• More buyers, 72 percent, say incentive travel programs have been “very effective,” an increase from 51 percent in 2016
• The average length of stay increased both for programs with any travel time and for programs requiring more than three hours travel time

The survey, distributed online, was available in English, Spanish and Mandarin. It included buyers (corporate and third-party participants) and sellers (suppliers to the incentive travel market such as destination management companies, hotels, airlines, CVBs/DMOs and technology companies). The top industries buyers represented were financial and professional services, science and technology and pharma/healthcare, all robust users of incentive travel.

Read a report about the latest SITE Index findings on Page 110 of the October issue of The Meeting Professional (

SITE and MPI have joined forces for the SITE + MPI Global Forum, which will take place in Rome at the Rome Cavalieri Waldorf Astoria from January 12-14, 2018. The event aims to bring together the “best and brightest” across the meeting and incentive travel industries to foster expanded connections, education and destination exploration. Learn more and register at

About the Author

Rich Luna

Rich Luna is director of publishing for MPI and editor in chief of The Meeting Professional.