American Express Meetings & Events 2017 global forecast

Overall activity, including number of meetings or number of attendees per meeting, may decline

October 24, 2016
Purchasing B2B
Image: Thinkstock

Image: Thinkstock

The sixth annual global meetings forecast demonstrates the increasing strategic role and value that meetings and events play in organizations of all sizes around the globe.

In the 2017 forecast, there’s a shift in sentiment, reflecting both continued global expansion and growth, balanced by political and economic uncertainty. A survey by American Express Meetings & Events shows respondents have indicated overarching program spend will likely be similar to 2016.

However overall activity, including number of meetings or number of attendees per meeting, may see a decline. There are several trends in different regions of the world, illustrated below.

North America
Across North America, organizations continue their global expansion efforts through organizational growth, as well as M&A. This type of activity increases the need for additional training and internal meetings. Respondents predict meeting spend will be flat with less than 1 percent change in budget overall. This may be influenced by the uncertainty associated with the upcoming presidential election and economic slowdown in Canada.

Throughout Europe, the focus on strategically managing meetings has risen in importance within organizations, especially as they allow more flexibility ility in local countries to match local culture and compliant business practices. Brexit and concerns over terrorism have also created a sense of caution across the region.

Central/South America
Many organizations are prioritizing Central/South America when it comes to globalizing their meetings business. Global sporting events like the Rio 2016 games have brought increased interest and traffic to the region, but the slowdown in the Brazilian economy and Zika virus outbreak have translated to lower demand for 2017. American Express expects overall budgets to increase slightly at 1.1 percent, as well as healthy activity from businesses in Central/South America.

Asia Pacific
American Express is optimistic about activity in the Asia Pacific region, with an increased focus on managing meetings spend that might be fueling increased activity. Compliance also appears to be a significant driver of the increased discipline.

In addition to the outlook by region, we also took a deeper look at some of the key issues in our industry. These include consolidation activity in the hotel industry, increasing urgency related to duty of care, and the future of talent in the meetings and events industry.

Hotel consolidation
Over the past few years, the hotel industry has seen significant mergers and acquisitions, with Kimpton and Starwood just to name a few. While the impact will take some time to be fully understood and realized given their scope, decision makers should be prepared and thoughtful to ensure they’re well-positioned to navigate and benefit from the changing supplier environment.

Consolidation activity involves many key drivers, whether it’s acquiring scale, increasing presence in various segments, or global expansion. As hotel brands look to create greater operating efficiencies, there is some concern within the travel industry about how mergers and acquisitions will influence commissions over time.

There has also been a greater emphasis on ease of bookings and the traveller/attendee experience. Social media is also driving the urgency for change in how hotel availability is shared, booked and managed. This, along with growing pressures from the new sharing economy suppliers that have made their way into corporate programs, is driving the need for a change in how content is shared, shopped, and booked. With increased consolidation, we may see expanded opportunities to respond more effectively to the trends and changes in a consistent way across the industry.

Duty of care
Natural disasters, strikes and other emergency situations create the need for emergency intervention to help address the needs of meetings and events attendees that may be impacted.

Meetings and events present some unique challenges when it comes to the tracking, management, and ability to respond in a timely and comprehensive manner during an unexpected event or interruption. This is due in part to the use of multiple vendors and varying processes for attendees booking their transportation, which then creates greater complexity. However, the opportunity to utilize technology improves the ability to quickly assess impact and respond should a crisis arise.

Everyone has a responsibility when it comes to their personal safety. In a meeting situation, attendees, meeting owners and their supplier partnertners can each play a role related to managing in an unexpected event.

Organizations that hold meetings should aim to establish a comprehensive duty of care policy that encompasses a variety of situations. The standards in these policies can serve as a guide for meetings and events from choosing locations, to travel arrangements and more.

From a third-party perspective, meeting planning organizations can also help bring their collective best practices and expertise to the table, based on the cumulative experience of all of their planners.

Additionally, attendees should pay attention to their surroundings and familiarize themselves with the environment. When attending a meeting, attendees should know how to get help if needed, especially if they’re in a foreign country. It is important for meeting attendees to review pre-trip information provided by meeting organizers to be well-prepared in advance.

There is always the risk of something happening during an event. It’s difficult to predict and, for that matter, prevent weather, strikes, or other crisis events, but having a detailed event operations plan and a well-prepared team will help manage the risk, and help enable faster response. Individuals and meeting owners can work to increase their readiness to handle crisis events by being well-informed about meetings destinations, understanding their role in emergency management, and following established procedures and protocols.

Future of talent in meetings and events
Meetings and events are about bringing people together. The meetings and events industry continues to grow and gain recognition within organizations as a key area of investment, a driver of growth and a critical component of a balanced sales and marketing strategy.

The industry is well suited to match the interests of the new generation entering the workforce, providing flexibility, opportunities to travel and work in changing environments, creativity and more.

We’re seeing more university hospitality programs that provide training specifically in the area of meetings and events. It is a priority to attract students to these growing programs for both the industry as a whole and universities.

It’s also crucial that the educational curriculum keeps up with industry needs, especially with myriad technological innovations and reporting requirements. In the survey, human resources professionals also stressed the importance of soft skills when hiring, such as the ability to read situations, communicate appropriately, troubleshoot, and build relationships.

Internship programs remain important to the industry. This real-life experience allows students to gain the insights and perspective they need to make well-informed decisions about their career path. To view the full 2017 global meetings and events forecast, please click here.