Skip navigation

Where Incentive Winners Want to Go (Versus Where They Actually Go)

Salespeople most frequently cite Hawaii as their dream incentive destination, but where companies typically bring them is a different story.

When the Incentive Research Foundation ran a survey in 2021 asking U.S. sales professionals to name their top destinations for incentive travel, the top four, in order, were Hawaii, Caribbean, Western U.S., and Western Europe. This year, the IRF asked salespeople the same question. The top four destinations were the same, but can you guess the order?

Here’s a hint: Respondents also said that beach/sunshine and adventure travel were their preferred destinations and experiences.

The answer to the question is perhaps no surprise: The order hasn’t changed. Hawaii, Caribbean, Western U.S., and Western Europe, respectively, remain the most appealing destinations for incentive travel rewards for the 405 U.S. salespeople who responded to the 2022 IRF survey.

Including those four perennial favorites, respondents ranked a total of 23 destinations/regions. Here are the results. (The number in parenthesis is a destination’s 2021 ranking. Green indicates the destination has moved up in rank; red indicates a drop.)
5. Southern United States (6)
6. Southwest United States (9)

7. Eastern United States (11)
8. Alaska (5)
9. Mexico (15)
10. Canada (7)
11. Central America (12)
12. South America (10)
13. Oceania (e.g., Polynesia, Micronesia) (8)
14. Middle East (e.g., Dubai, Egypt) (19)
15. South Asia (e.g., India, Maldives) (14)
16. Midwest United States (21)
17. Northeast Asia (e.g., Hong Kong, Macau) (17)
18. North Africa (e.g., Morocco) (18)
19. Emerging Europe (e.g., Hungary, Romania) (16)
20. Southeast Asia (e.g., Singapore, Vietnam) (13)
21. Southern Africa (20)
22. East Africa (e.g., Kenya, Madagascar) (22)
23. West Africa (e.g., Nigeria, Senegal) (23)

Interestingly, the IRF research team looked at how participant preferences (above) aligned with where incentive trips are actually being booked by using data from Cvent on the most popular destinations chosen by incentive trip planners in 2022.

In all cases, Cvent’s 20 top-booked destinations ranked either in the first or second tier of participant preferences. (First-tier preferences being Hawaii, Caribbean, Western U.S., and Western Europe; second tier covering regions 5 to 11 on the participant preferences list.) All of Cvent’s 20 most-booked incentive destinations were in the U.S., Caribbean, or Central America. (Below, red indicates a first-tier destination as defined by participants. The balance of the top 20 are second tier.)

1. Playa del Carmen, Mexico
2. Nassau, Bahamas
3. San Jose del Cabo, Mexico
4. Los Cabos, Mexico
5. Cancun, Mexico
6. Palm Beach, Fla.
7. Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
8. Scottsdale, Ariz.
9. Miami Beach, Fla.
10. Guanacaste, Costa Rica
11. Maui, Hawaii
12. Grand Cayman

13. Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
14. Rio Grande, Puerto Rico
15. Kohala Coast, Hawaii
16. St. Thomas, U.S.V.I.
17. San Diego

18. Riviera Maya, Mexico
19. Naples, Fla.
20. Wailea, Hawaii

During a September 6 webinar reviewing the results of the IRF survey, panelists commented on Mexico’s predominance on the Cvent list. “Five of the top-10 destinations are in Mexico—that definitely aligns with what we're seeing,” said Rudy Garza, vice president of operations at Brightspot Incentives & Events. He believes Mexico’s ease of access, many all-inclusive properties, and affordability factor into its popularity with clients. “It's almost the opposite of Hawaii,” he said, where interest is high but the experience is expensive. “And not only that, but the VAT refund is part of the appeal when it comes to destinations in Mexico.”

Anne Gorman, vice president, sales and marketing at streamline events, noted that participant preference for Mexico might be lower because it’s a popular spot for personal vacations. But “it's really hard not to include Mexico in the conversation when you're talking about where to place an incentive. If you go to Los Cabos one year, you could go to Riviera Maya the next and have a totally different experience. The quality of properties there makes it a great option.”

For more from the IRF webinar discussing the group’s 2022 study, titled Incentive Travel Destination Preferences & Their Impact on Motivation, read Incentive Activity of Choice: No Activity?” or click here for the full survey results.

Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.