A decade after the 2008 recession, the industry appears to be stable, with steady growth on the horizon according to a new report from American Express Meetings & Events (M&E), a division of American Express Global Business Travel (GBT).
“2019 will be a growth year for the meetings industry, with activity expected to increase across all meeting types and regions,” said Issa Jouaneh, M&E senior vice president and general manager.
Overall, an upward trajectory is predicted for around the world. Customer advisory board meetings are expected to grow 1.3 percent in North America, 1.5 percent in Europe, 1.9 percent in Central and South America. Incentives and special events are predicted to increase 1.8 percent in Central and South America, and conferences and tradeshows will grow 1.4 percent.
Meetings are also expected to grow larger. Attendees are projected to increase by 2.4 percent, while length could increase by up to 1.9 percent. In Europe, all meetings but internal team meetings will be longer, while Central and South America anticipate all meetings to increase in length, especially conferences and tradeshows, which are expected to be 1.4 percent longer, and incentives to be 1.9 percent longer. North America, on the other hand, expects many meetings to be lengthy, including project launches, incentives and customer advisory boards.
Per-attendee costs will see increases by over one percent in APAC and Central and South America. Europe will see smaller increases, with the exception of advisory meetings, which will increase by slightly over one percent. Respondents expect 1.08 percent increases with incentives in North America.
While planners expect a less-than-one-percent growth in space in 2019, 2020 is looking more positive. One notable shift seen for 2019 in both Europe and North America is a flight to mid-tier properties for larger meetings. Non-traditional meeting spaces are also growing in popularity, with a 2.7 percent increase in demand expected in 2019. Small meetings, especially, are increasingly attempting to find unique spaces to hold events. Because of this, hotels are investing in boutique properties.
Growth in technology, hotel commissions and ROI affect regions differently. Below are some of the major changes in each region.
Europe and North America See Small Growth
North America and Europe will experience slight budget increases despite rising costs of hotel rates (0.8 percent and 2.4 percent, and 0.7 percent and 1.6 percent, respectively). However, two thirds of North American respondents said that the increase in hotel rates, as well lower commissions, will be a hinderance. Both areas anticipate growth in number of meetings, with Spain and Germany leading the way in activity in Europe. Europe is also expected to see increases in attendees for product launches and customer advisory board meetings.
Asia Pacific Puts Pressure on ROI
While there is predicted growth in APAC, planners are still hoping to create more with less, with hotel rates raising 1.1 percent. However, this puts demand on ROI, causing planners to choose second-tier destinations in an attempt to save costs. Per-attendee spend is not homogenized across the region—Japan spends most on incentives; China spends more on senior leadership meetings; and Australia focuses most on product launches.
Central and South America Focus in on Technology
A majority (76 percent) of planners are expected to employ virtual meeting technology in an attempt to meet demand in the growing region. “Strategic meetings built around defined goals that prioritize the attendee experience and embrace technology will continue to elevate meetings as a business tool despite these challenges,” says Jouaneh.
More popular regions for tourism, including Rio de Janeiro, Cancun/Riviera Maya and Mexico City, are considered top meeting locations and continue to climb the chart. Brazil, especially, is a growing contender, with planners flocking to the destinations due to its recent facilities for global sporting events.