The meetings and events industry can be optimistic about growth prospects next year, driven by increased competition in the supply chain for market share, and robust investments and a desire for consolidation of spend by buyers, according to the 2018 Global Meetings and Events Forecast from American Express Meetings & Events.
Across the globe, the continued localization of meetings programs will be a key trend next year, American Express said, as meeting professionals seek to add flexibility and nuance to offerings that address specific market needs and drive program adoption. The link between compliance and security in today’s geopolitical landscape is another area of focus, with a special section on compliance challenges and risks associated with corporate meetings in China.
Technology is expected to continue its transformation of meetings and events in 2018, particularly on the end-to-end management of delivery and attendee experience. The potential of emerging technologies such as virtual reality (VR) and artificial intelligence (AI), and the ongoing development of mobile-app and hybrid-meeting solutions are creating innovation and value add opportunities for both meeting owners and attendees.
“Following the shifting sentiment in 2017, next year should be more positive around the world in terms of spend, number of meetings and attendees. Meanwhile, meeting owners are prioritizing attendee experience and engagement over scale. As a result, we expect to see shorter, more focused meetings,” said Issa Jouaneh, senior vice president and general manager, American Express Meetings & Events, in a written release.
“Economic and geopolitical influences will continue to create uncertainty, but we anticipate ongoing industry resilience and continued focus on successful experiences,” added Jouaneh.
The meetings industry in North America is particularly optimistic about growth opportunities. Overall, the amount of money spent is expected to rise, with increasing regional airfares, hotel rates and despite global budget constraints. Reflecting global sentiment, the key focus for meetings planners and owners will be prioritizing the attendee experience. Cost per attendee expected to increase across most meeting types, and survey respondents indicate that investments will be dedicated to improving content and production and boosting attendance numbers. While activity levels between meeting types tend to be similar across the U.S. and Canada, respondents expect boosts in advisory and incentive meetings in Canada equaling 20 percent of total meetings, while in the U.S. they remain at 10 percent.
In Europe, geopolitical uncertainty has led to country-specific variations in industry confidence. The United Kingdom (U.K.), Belgium and the Netherlands express the most optimism across several indicators. Respondents in the U.K. and Poland anticipate an increased in the amount of money spent on meetings, while those in other European countries predict decreasing or flat activity in 2018. With the exception of the U.K., European countries expect to spend less on attendees than the previous year. Cuts in meeting length and optional activities to compensate for rate increases will be sought across all regions. Europe stands out among other regions as countries consistently predict shorter meetings.
In Asia Pacific, Australia anticipates robust growth; the Forecast predicts an increase in both the amount of money spent on meetings and the number of attendees. Elsewhere, other countries have expressed reservations. The combined rise of hotel rates and falling meetings activities have led to budget constraints and the predicted increase in cost per attendee. For the year ahead, respondents indicated basic meetings management and support would be prioritized to better control meetings investment and showcase value.
Central & South America
In Central and South America, industry growth is expected to be modest across most categories. Local governments and companies have been instrumental in promoting the region as a meetings destination, and regional meetings professionals predict increases in both meeting duration and attendance. Mexico and Colombia are becoming increasingly popular, but both face challenges with rising hotel rates and limited supply for large groups.