Global Economy Still Hurting International Meetings, Survey Shows

Despite slow growth for meetings due to continuing economic pressures, most international meeting planners are optimistic about 2013.

More associations reported declining numbers in attendance and income from sponsors this year than in 2011, according to a survey on international association meetings by the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) and the IMEX Group.

Of the 84 groups surveyed, 31 percent said they saw slight reductions in attendance, compared to 15 percent the previous year; 49 percent experienced declines in sponsorship revenue, up from 43 percent in 2011.

Any improvement to the general economy should feed into a strong underlying rationale for long-term growth.

“The continuing global economic turmoil is definitely starting to hurt,” said Martin Sirk, CEO of ICCA. “More associations are reporting that they have been significantly affected…and a clear majority are suffering in terms of sponsorship and exhibition revenue.”

But the industry is “resilient,” Sirk said, and data from the survey support that claim. Of those surveyed, 28 percent saw an increase in attendance, and 38 percent saw no change in attendance numbers.

“When we combine the results of this survey with what we are seeing in our own ICCA statistics on international association meetings…we end up with an extremely complex and volatile situation,” said Sirk. “We’re reporting significant growth in the creation of new events, which suggests that continuing scientific and technological advances and knowledge-industry innovation are driving demand for international meetings in this sector, while cuts in budgets by traditional sponsors are putting pressure on many established events.”

Looking ahead, many of those surveyed are optimistic about the future, with 22 percent saying they plan to hold more meetings in 2013 than they did this year. And 44 percent are projecting higher attendance, while just 10 percent expect a decline.

“Any improvement to the general economy should feed into a strong underlying rationale for long-term growth,” said Sirk. “For pessimists, the story of greater competition for limited resources means associations’ existing events will have to fight ever harder for a share of the pie, and that the growth in new events will increase competition even if the economy improves. Inevitably, both of these scenarios will be correct for some parts of the market.”

What effect has the economy had on your organization’s meetings, be they local or international?

(photo by andrewasmith/Flickr)

Rob Stott

By Rob Stott

Rob Stott is a contributing editor for Associations Now. MORE

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