According to the American Express Meetings & Events 2016 Global Meetings Forecast, positive economic trends combined with the global expansion of companies will drive continued growth for the meetings industry in 2016. Across all regions, the number of training and internal meetings is expected to experience high levels of growth as companies continue to invest in bringing their employees together for face-to-face meetings.
Following a year of added capacity, an increased focus on compliance-related concerns and a growing need to manage risk across all meeting types, meeting owners are predicted to expand their budgets next year. In turn, hotels are expected to increase capacity in key cities, but lead times remain tight, so meeting owners who are able to plan farther ahead have the best chance of securing their first choice property and dates. The 2016 Forecast also provides a look at three key areas of interest among meetings professionals: compliance, incentives and using mobile and social media for events, all of which are expected to continue to shape the meetings industry in 2016.
In North America, 2016 points to continued increases in all meeting types across the region, further fueling the increased activity seen in 2015. Training and internal meetings are expected to continue to experience strong growth and rise more than any other meeting type next year. As the number of meetings is predicted to increase, attendee levels in North America are also expected to trend upwards. As a result of recent economic growth, companies are renewing their focus on employee-centric meetings by planning a greater number of incentive meetings and special events next year; however, meeting planners are also implementing processes to ensure the right audiences are in attendance to further maximize their returns on their meetings investments and increase compliance. Although respondents are optimistic about growth, the length of meetings is predicted to remain largely unchanged in 2016. While overall program spend is expected to rise, marking the largest forecasted spend increase in three years, budgets remain tightly controlled as meeting planners increase their spend per attendee, where justified.
In Europe, survey respondents indicate continued meetings activity growth from 2015 with small upward trends expected throughout the region next year. With the number of predicted meetings expected to be stable to slightly higher, the region will continue its steady course. Unlike last year’s forecast which predicted small regional declines, survey respondents from the United Kingdom and Germany show strong optimism across the region, expecting similar to slightly higher increases across all meeting types. In France, predictions vary widely by meeting type, with planners most optimistic about increases in conferences and trade shows, while a small number of others predict small declines in training meetings and product launches. Additionally, the size of meetings and events is slowly increasing for most meeting types across Europe. While doing more with less was the mantra for 2015, doing more with a little bit more is the new mantra for 2016, a welcome change for the industry. Compared to last year, budgets are expected to continue growing, as companies across Europe are likely to spend more on their meetings programs in 2016.
Similar to other regions, meetings activity in Asia Pacific is predicted to experience growth next year, with small increases across all meeting types. Diversity continues to persist throughout the region with Indonesia and South Korea building out their infrastructures and enhancing tourism, thus contributing to the expected meeting activity increases within the region, while Australia and Japan are already well established. As a unique destination, China remains a top focus for global companies due to the size of its economy and the prevalence of manufacturing; however, other locations throughout the region are emerging as appealing destinations for a wide range of meeting types. Compliance continues to be a top priority for the region as activities ramp up in countries including China, Japan and Korea; consolidation of services becomes increasingly more important; and meeting planners look to ensure they are adhering to regulatory requirements. Unlike the 2015 predictions, Australia stands out with a higher number of expected meetings than the regional average and the largest average numbers of attendees for sales and marketing meetings globally. Furthermore, while meeting planners last year predicted meeting spend to remain stable, meeting spend is now expected to trend upwards through 2016. Meeting planners across Asia-Pacific, with the exception of Australia, are also leaning towards shorter meetings compared to North America and mirror the length of predicted meetings in Europe.
Central and South American respondents also expect meeting activity to increase across all meeting types, as meeting owners look to use meetings and events as a driver of revenue growth in 2016. The positive trend that began in 2015 is expected to persist next year as a result of economic growth in some countries, global sporting events attracting greater attention to specific countries in the region and the development of travel and meeting infrastructures across the broader region as a whole. Attendee levels and the length of meetings in 2016 are expected to remain stable. Similar to North America, overall meeting spend is predicted to increase more in 2016 than in 2015, with a 1.4 percent rise in spending, as companies invest further in their meetings programs.
The Forecast reveals that the top destinations for meetings remain relatively similar for 2016 as for 2015, with minor changes throughout the regions. In North America, Chicago, Illinois slipped to second place this year, with Orlando, Florida taking the lead to rank as the number one meeting destination choice among meeting planners. Las Vegas, Nevada; San Diego, California; and Atlanta, Georgia continue to rank in the top five meeting destinations in North America for the third consecutive year. In Central and South America, the demand for large city locations persists with Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and the Riviera Maya/ Cancun region in Mexico retaining the top two spots for meetings and events for the third consecutive year. In Europe, London, UK and Paris, France have retained their spots from last year’s Forecast and Amsterdam, Netherlands has taken over Barcelona, Spain’s spot in third place. In Asia Pacific, Singapore remains the number one meeting destination, while Shanghai, China and Hong Kong/Macau traded places. Beijing has climbed onto the list to the number four ranking, causing Sydney to rank one position lower and Bali to slip out of the top five.
Across all regions, the survey respondents indicated that the number of meetings is expected to rise in 2016 compared to 2015.
Insights and Best Practices
Forecast participants provided insight into several topics that remain top of mind for 2016 meetings and events planning. Key areas of focus for 2016 include:
Compliance Considerations – Regulatory compliance remains a critical issue for corporations across the globe with meetings operations as one area where the potential risks and penalties can be significant. Specifically, government regulators have increased their focus on individual accountability and corporate officers’ conduct with non-compliance resulting in significant consequences for both corporations and individuals. Within the meetings and events space, the highest risk of non-compliance is typically related to meeting payments, expenses and records, handling of Personal Information (PI) and attendee selection. To mitigate such risks, organizations must establish appropriate internal controls throughout their areas of operations to avoid potential improper risk. One way of doing so is by requiring onsite personnel to ensure accurate attendance and facilitate greater transparency with meetings.
Incentive Programs and Events – Millennials continue to play a significant role in shaping the incentive travel space today. As a result, some companies have recognized the importance of engaging with these employees and have designed and executed specific programs aimed to motivate, recognize and reward millennial travelers through immersive and cultural experiences. Choice and personalization are key themes in designing travel experiences that inspire and motivate this large segment of the workforce. Together with Prevue Magazine, the Forecast explores five key components of any incentive trip, including destination selection, property selection, food and beverage, entertainment and gifts.
Mobile Apps and Event Technology – As the role of technology and mobile apps continues to rise among meetings professionals, the Forecast, along with insights from DoubleDutch, a mobile applications and performance analytics provider, examines how these technologies are evolving and how meeting planners can maximize their use to achieve desired outcomes, including increased attendee engagement and greater event effectiveness. In today’s digital age, meeting owners have an opportunity to capitalize on attendees’ desire for this type of technology through digital solutions and mobile applications.