Despite uncertainty about where the world is headed, the meetings and events industry is getting larger by the day. According to CWT M&E’s 2020 Future Trends Report, the industry is expected to grow 8 percent in 2020.

Trends contributing to the growth of the events industry include the digitization of everything, the popularity of live events and changing demographics as millennials and centennials become a larger part of the workforce.

The Web and You

Since 2017, event websites began to materialize at a fast rate, up to 52 percent year-over-year. CWT M&E estimates that this number has risen 83 percent. The number of people using their mobile devices has seen a significant increase as well, with 50 percent of attendees downloading apps, compared to 74 percent year-to-date in 2019.

Researchers at CWT M&E believe the use of chatbots, machine learning and AI will soon contribute to even greater personalization for attendees in the future. Those same event apps can also serve as a way to measure the level of engagement with those attendees during an event, by linking an attendee’s social media accounts, allowing them to engage quickly and easily.

The report found that online booking tools are not used by planners as frequently as they could be, despite the number of tools that have cropped up in recent years. As planners begin to realize online booking’s many advantages, their usage could increase within the next few years.

Millennials Making an Impact

Much of this digitization is being spearheaded by millennials, the same group that is projected to become the largest group of business travelers by 2024. Centennials (or Gen Z)—those born in 1996 and after—are unique in that they are the first group that hasn’t known the world before the internet, smartphones and apps, so they may be slightly more comfortable around tech than the generations that came before them.

Their expectations of the amount of tasks they can complete on their phone is heightened as well, with 75 percent on Gen Zers expecting to be able to complete their travel bookings all on their smartphone.

Incentives are Growing

With an increasing focus on improving company culture and creating relationships between employees and leaders, incentives—while they’ve always been important—are one of the fastest growing type of events. Although at the center of incentives is business, improving sales and profitability, this doesn’t negate attendees’ desire for a great experience.

Attendees want a morale booster, something that they can call a “life-changer.” Part of that is dropping the touristy outings and living like a local. Part of being a local means visiting locations that are on the fringe, which is why taking paths less traveled has seen in increase in popularity, as well as much-traveled locations, such as Paris, New York, Dubai and South Africa. Lesser-traveled destinations, such as Nepal, Namibia and Montenegro are also set for travel in 2020.

This desire to trek the road less traveled has resulted in heightened security measures being taken, with 42 percent of travelers being subjected to pre-travel risk assessments, a trend that has seen a 5 percent increase year-over-year.