The 2024 IRF Invitational

Sun, sand, surf – is there any better place to discuss strategic innovations in the incentive travel industry than the Bahamas? Every year, the Incentive Research Foundation (IRF) hosts an educational Invitational, a dynamic event where industry professionals come together to explore and discuss the latest data and trends from the past year.

This year, the Invitational was hosted in the Bahamas at Baha Mar. Baha Mar comprises three different resorts – the Grand Hyatt Baha Mar, the SLS Baha Mar, and the Rosewood Baha Mar – all located within the same compound. Each resort offers its own unique atmosphere and experience. The Grand Hyatt Baha Mar is more family-friendly with amenities like swimming pools, water parks, and golf. SLS Baha Mar is an upscale resort catering more to young professionals with its energetic nightlife offerings and fine dining. Rosewood Baha Mar is an intimately luxurious experience with more high-end dining options and exclusive beach access. All three resorts share amenities, restaurants, beach access, and a casino located in the middle of the compound.

What is IRF?

The IRF is a nonprofit organization that compiles data to provide industry professionals with valuable information to enhance their work in the incentives and meetings sector. Throughout the year, they conduct intense research involving incentive professionals and participants. This information is not only shared at the annual Invitational, but also disseminated through their website, webinars, and LinkedIn page throughout the year. This annual event provides an opportunity for over 500 incentive professionals to network and learn in a beautiful destination.

The educational sessions of the Invitational focused on new industry data, emerging trends, and, of course, technology. Here are just a few insights and highlights from this year’s Invitational:

Unreasonable Hospitality

Perhaps the most prominent topic of conversation was the concept of “unreasonable hospitality.” The idea of unreasonable hospitality stems from the book Unreasonable Hospitality: The Remarkable Power of Giving People More Than They Expect by Will Guidara. Essentially, all businesses can stand to be exceptionally hospitable to their guests, clients, and partners to transform the ordinary into the extraordinary. The IRF demonstrated unreasonable hospitality in real-time at the Invitational. By asking the right questions at registration, they were able to create impactful, memorable, moving moments for the guests.

The Future of AI

AI has officially inundated our world. It seems that nearly every program, software, and platform is integrating AI into their systems. The incentive travel industry is no exception. AI has many features and capabilities in our industry and, with time, is only going to continue improving and enhancing our workflow. From predictive analytics to chatbots, AI streamlines processes, improves attendee experiences, and helps us better organize travel programs. Integrating AI elevates the quality of experiences we offer and meets the evolving needs of modern travelers. In short, AI helps us do our jobs more quickly and more efficiently. It frees up time so we can focus on other important facets of event planning like personalization and unreasonable hospitality.

Data Matters

The incentive travel industry is huge and booming. As such there is a lot of competition. So, how do we create a unique experience for our guests and clients that they won’t get anywhere else? The answer is in how we use our company’s analytics paired with the data from IRF in our planning processes to make decisions based on facts. With enough data, we can track attendee preferences and engagement, reallocate resources and funds, and optimize accommodation and destination offerings, allowing us to make swift and efficient adjustments and improvements if needed.

Thank you IRF for a fantastic experience! We are looking forward to next year’s Educational Invitational hosted at Ava Resort Cancun to further explore the booming incentive travel industry.

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