PALM BEACHES, Fla. – The Incentive Research Foundation (IRF), a private not-for-profit foundation, partnered with Discover The Palm Beaches, the DMO for Palm Beach County, earlier this spring to host a group of incentive travel professionals from across the country for a destination review experience.
According to a media release, the group discussed factors driving buyer decisions for incentive travel and events. They also aimed to set new industry standards by exploring how unique luxury experiences can be effectively balanced with safety procedures. Key findings from the research were summarized and published by IRF in a white paper, titled “Buyer Decision Drivers.”
The research indicated the importance of ample outdoor space, as well as the ability to buy out venues and spread out attendees. The paper also highlighted the significance of consistent and comprehensive pre-event communications, clear health and safety protocols, creative approaches to event design, strong local airports, and high service standards.
Group members “noted that right now, attendees are constantly evaluating their level of comfort and shifting. Decisions to attend, or not attend, events are highly personal depending on vaccination status, status of immediate family members, confidence in protocols, and clarity around expectations,” according to the paper. “One attendee noted that spouses and other family members are more engaged in decisions around event attendance and recommended a communication directed to family members regarding protocols and safety measured to help create comfort.”
“It was our priority to host an event where the attendees felt the emphasis on the health and safety procedures in place throughout the destination, while also having memorable experiences unique to The Palm Beaches, receiving the high level of service we are known for,” said Kelly Cavers, senior vice president, group sales and destination services for Discover The Palm Beaches. “We are thrilled to see the research resulting from the destination review re-affirmed what we believe and know to be true: The Palm Beaches provides the perfect balance of a safe, accessible destination, with unforgettable resorts, amenities, and attractions for incentives.”
Clear and proactive communication was cited as a top decision-making factor among the group of incentive professionals, from pre-planning and attendee registration to pre-arrival, as well as onsite and post-event. Attendees voiced a desire to have direct pre-event communication from DMOs regarding local and state travel regulations and public health mandates, as well as information about the size of the event, health screenings, what to expect at events and venues, and a clear understanding of what will be required of attendees.
Labor was another key area of focus. “Labor impacts the quality of the experience for the attendee,” noted one incentive professional quoted in the paper. “Being honest with partners about what has changed in terms of levels of service and compliance to policies onsite is more important than ever.” Several group members expressed concern about whether hotels and venues would be able to deliver their stated protocols and service levels. To mitigate that concern, they said their decision process has evolved to include more site visits or even unannounced visits to hotels and venues to “audit the staff for compliance to the playbook.”
“Events can be held safely without sacrificing experience, as our event in The Palm Beaches demonstrated, but it takes extra planning and enhanced communication,” the white paper concluded.