Meetings

Trends Report: What Could 2015 Look Like for Association Meetings?

By / Nov 14, 2014 (iStock/Thinkstock)

It’s never too early to start thinking ahead when it comes to conferences and events. Here’s what a few organizations and companies are predicting that 2015 has on tap for meetings.

The day after Halloween I walked into my local grocery store, and there I saw them: holiday decorations on display. “Really? Already?” I sighed to myself as I picked up my shopping basket. That’s right, it seemed that overnight we had skipped ahead of Thanksgiving and moved right onto Hanukkah and Christmas.

And now, two weeks later, pretty much every store I go to is fully decorated and playing Christmas music—all with their holiday departments fully stocked. But something else has started to pop up in this mix, particularly in my email inbox: Talk of  both New Year’s and what 2015 will mean to various aspects of associations, including conferences and events.

So I’ve decided to jump on what many may call the “too soon” bandwagon with this blog post, and take a look at what organizations and experts are saying next year could mean for association meetings.

Here is a look at four forecasts and trend reports I’ve come across in recent weeks.

Costs will increase. In the fall edition of its “Meetings Outlook” [PDF], Meeting Professionals International didn’t paint a rosy picture for 2015. “The newest installment of the quarterly special report shows [that] increasing costs for services across the meeting and event spectrum in concert with only slight budgetary growth is setting up a more challenging year ahead,” said MPI in a press release [PDF].

According to the report, which compiles results from a survey of MPI members across the globe, costs will increase more than budgets in 2015. Areas with the highest cost increases are air travel at 5 percent and food and beverage at 4 percent, while overall budgets will grow by only 1.7 percent. Also of note: MPI predicts that, of all event types, training, educational events, and sales meetings will grow the most.

Room rates will also rise. Earlier this week PwC US, the U.S. firm of PricewaterhouseCoopers, released an updated lodging industry forecast, which showed that lodging operators are reporting solid momentum in group demand for 2015. Along with strong transient travel activity and a positive economic environment, group demand is expected to drive an 8.2 percent increase in revenue per available room this year and a 7.4 percent increase next year. The forecast also predicts that occupancy levels will reach 64.9 percent in 2015, the highest since 1984, giving hotel operators leverage to drive more aggressive pricing. Guest room rates also were mentioned in MPI’s outlook, which projected a 3.9 percent increase.

Management will matter most. Earlier this month, CWT Meetings & Events published its “2015 Meetings and Events Forecast” [PDF]. According this this forecast, end-to-end meetings management will top meeting planners’ agendas. “Time and financial savings are typical benefits [of end-to-end management], in addition to gaining an accurate view of total event costs,” said the report. Other predictions from CWT:

  • Lead times for meetings will continue to shrink. For example, lead times in North America have decreased by 9 percent compared to last year.
  • Use of technology at events will hit an all-time high, including meeting-specific apps and wearable technology.
  • Budget-conscious planners will hold most of their meetings domestically and in midscale hotels.

Food and beverage will continue to trend. Andrew Freeman & Co., a hospitality and restaurant consulting firm, released its predictions for 2015 F&B trends [PDF].  It identifies a number of trends in the hotel space, including that more higher-end properties are offering “breakfast replacement therapy”—on-the-go marketplaces and casual coffee shops as replacements for the traditional (and often pricey) sit-down or room-service hotel breakfast.

And at larger-scale events, the report says to be on the lookout for two new catering options: Live garden displays that include edible dirt, along with farm-fresh vegetables, as well as Dim Sum-style cart service.

What do you think 2015 has in store for meetings and events? Share your ideas in the comments.

Samantha Whitehorne

Samantha Whitehorne is editorial director of Associations Now. More »

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