Global meeting planners are confident in what they do, with more than 70% remaining optimistic about the health of the sector in the year ahead. This is according to the 2020 Global Meetings and Events Forecast report from American Express Meetings & Events.
The ninth annual Global Meetings and Events Forecast from American Express Meetings & Events surveyed 550 industry professionals across 33 countries and five continents.
The results were presented to a packed room at last month’s Cvent Connect by Dominic Marder, Global Business Development & Strategy, American Express Meetings & Events and Sue Darlaston, Head of Business Development, Banks Sadler.
Global meetings spend projected to rise
“Overall, respondents are “very optimistic” about the meetings and events industry when looking to 2020,” Sue Darlaston said.
“While there is quite a bit of talk about economic uncertainty and the impact of political change and instability, including Brexit and the upcoming U.S elections, our survey respondents are still predicting healthy growth.”
After several years of flat or even decreasing budgets, the report predicts that overall meetings spend for 2020 will be up across the board.
Asia Pacific respondents predicted the most modest increase, at 1.3%, followed by North America at 1.6%, Europe at 2.1% and Central and South America at a very healthy 2.6%.
However, it’s not clear that those budget increases will keep pace with demand or rising costs, especially since both activity and attendance are also forecast to rise.
It means global meeting planners will continue to be required to do more with less, which is in-keeping with Cvent’s own Global Planner Sourcing Report findings.
American Express Meetings & Events expects internal team meetings to account for between 18% and 25% of all event activity in 2020. This is consistent with last year’s numbers for Europe and Asia Pacific, but North America dropped to 25% from 30%, and Central and South America to 18% from 26%.
The shift in North America can be mostly accounted for by the growth in incentive events, which are expected to increase from 11% of meetings in 2019 to 15% of meetings in 2020.
The strong economy in the US is likely one of the factors driving that growth, as the low rate of unemployment means companies are beefing up their incentive programs to attract and retain employees.
Product launches are expected to increase to between 14% and 16% of all meetings in 2020, from 13% of meetings in 2019, across all regions. Respondents in Central and South America are also predicting a substantial 6% increase in conferences and trade shows in 2020.
Shadow of Brexit, GDPR challenges impacting Europe MICE industry
Meetings professionals across Europe meanwhile, are facing specific challenges in balancing attendee experience, privacy as result of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), and political instability from Brexit, especially here in the UK.
As one UK professional explained: “The outlook is strong, but Brexit could impact budgets and planning for 2020 onwards.” Another respondent said that it is already having an impact, with cost-cutting resulting in less travel.
Interestingly, according to the Global Meetings and Events Forecast, if European planners were asked to cut costs further due to economic or political uncertainty, the first element to go would be the number of nights, followed by cutting offsite optional activities and offsite evening events.
Attendee engagement remains key focus area
However, if budgets increased (as they’re predicted to do), the preferred choice among 30% of European respondents would be to ‘improve the onsite experience’ – which suggests that for planners, the core function of meetings and events is to deliver on attendee engagement.
“The attendee experience continues to grow in focus with meeting planners, indicating that they spend more time focused on the experiential elements of their events and meetings than on the logistics.
“Make no mistake, logistics remain important—they are integral to the experience—but theming and content are beginning to take on more of the planner’s mindshare, which is great news for attendees,” concludes Gerardo Tejado, General Manager, American Express Meetings & Events.