Event Forecast: Larger Audiences, Slender Budgets Expected in 2018

The latest edition of American Express Meetings & Events’ annual global forecast suggests that rising group rates for hotel rooms and increasing air fares mean that budget limitations will be a theme in 2018, even as the industry continues to grow.

The good news is that meetings are growing. The bad news is that budgets are staying tight.

That’s the underlying theme of the 2018 version of the Global Meetings and Events Forecast [registration], published by American Express Meetings & Events.

The report is largely optimistic about the state of the meetings industry, noting that  attendance continues to grow—especially in North America, where conference and tradeshow attendee levels are anticipated to increase by 1.8 percent in 2018.

“While there is awareness that cost pressures will continue as hotel and air rates rise faster than meetings budgets, planners indicate a focus on the attendee experience. When respondents consider where to cut and where to add as budgets shift, they are doing so with the attendee experience top of mind,” Issa Jouaneh, senior vice president and general manager of American Express Meetings & Events, notes in the report.

A few key highlights from the report:

Keeping an eye on the budget. Globally, meeting spending is expected to stay relatively flat, with a slight 1 percent increase in North America and a 1 percent decrease in the Asia-Pacific region. “Meetings professionals suggest that meeting owners are looking more closely than ever before at the details of their meeting spend,” the report states. While budgets aren’t increasing, the cost per attendee is (by as much as 2.2 percent globally in the case of incentive meetings), as are group hotel rates (by 3.5 percent in North America alone) and group air rates (by 4.7 percent in 2018 in North America). Event suppliers that are flexible, the report states, are likely to benefit in this tightened-budget era.

Moving beyond tradition. The report highlights a rise in demand for nontraditional facilities for meetings, which is anticipated to grow by 3.8 percent in 2018—more than any other category. “While the complexity of meetings and events might be growing, meeting planners are excited about the ‘unique’ factor,” the report states. But while the demand for unique venues is growing, the largest demand remains with mid-tier properties, which make up at least 41 percent of demand in each region.

Keeping travel easy.  Fifty-two percent of North American respondents and 44 percent of European respondents said it’s important that the meeting venue be located near an  airport or train station. As meetings get shorter, the proximity issue will become increasingly important. Another key factor is security, which people in the Asia-Pacific and Central and South American regions each ranked as highly important.

Engaging with apps. More attendees are using mobile apps, and that trend is expected to continue. Global hoteliers anticipate a 4.3 percent increase in app usage. “Respondents indicate that improving attendee engagement, communication during the event, and facilitating networking among attendees are among the most compelling reasons to use a mobile app,” the report states. But even with the growth of apps, some meeting planners are reluctant to launch one; they worry that apps are so widely used they don’t believe they can stand out.

(siraanamwong/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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