An Optimistic View of the Meetings Market

Meetings of all types are expected to increase, with training and internal team meetings seeing big increases as organizations continue to expand globally. Meeting attendees and budgets will still be tightly managed to maximize effectiveness. 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 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.

The Forecast reveals that the top destinations for meetings remain relatively similar for 2016 as for 2015, with minor changes throughout the regions. 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.

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.

Looking into 2016, meeting professionals have an optimistic view of the meetings market.

Source: International Meetings Review and AMEX Meetings and Events