American Express Meetings & Events predicts global expansion of meetings activity in 2015

Meetings planners expected to utilize non-traditional meetings facilities and further implement virtual technology

According to the American Express Meetings & Events 2015 Global Meetings Forecast (“the Forecast”), meetings are expected to play a critical role in a return to business fundamentals in 2015, a trend which should help drive the long-term health of the industry. Following a period of economic recovery for the meetings industry as well as new budget pressures in 2014, 2015 meeting budgets are likely to show positive movement, either through growth or less of a decline than was seen previously. This is due to powerful drivers, such as compliance, global expansion, and standardized processes that can help to reduce risk and elevate the visibility and strategic importance of meetings programs within companies. New for this year’s edition, the 2015 Forecast breaks down predictions by meeting type to provide more insight into the purpose of meetings and where business priorities lie.

“The meeting industry overall appears to be very much ‘back in business’, in particular as a key component of sales and marketing strategies for many organizations,” said Issa Jouaneh, Vice President and General Manager, American Express Meetings & Events. “The last few years have given focus to meetings and events in a way that has driven a more disciplined approach around approvals processes, increased scrutiny on spend and a larger focus around accountability and expected outcomes for meetings.”

In North America, the positive sentiment for 2014 continued with a slight 0.3 per cent increase in meetings activity expected in 2015. At the same time, many meetings have been reduced in size over the past few years, increasing the demand for meetings at airport properties, as meeting owners try to maximize the productive time available for attendees. Overall, there is a continued push to stay close to home and host meetings where the largest number of attendees live. Attendee levels in North America seem to have stabilized, with no major changes expected next year. For the first time, respondents were also asked to answer questions on meeting activity, number of attendees, length and more by individual meeting type. Training meetings lead the pack in North America in terms of growth in number of meetings, and in regard to meeting length, the findings revealed that incentive and special events were reported to be the longest meeting by category, followed by conferences.

In Europe, meeting activity predictions from survey respondents generally mirrors the current economic situation of the individual countries. Across Europe, an incremental decline in the number of attendees in nearly all meeting types are predicted. Germany and the United Kingdom, two regions with positive predictions in the 2014 Forecast, are expecting slight declines in attendees across the board in the coming year, while Spain and France are seeing smaller declines predicted for 2015, compared to previous years. “Doing more with less” is the mantra of most meeting owners, and their 2015 budgets reflect that. The outlier among European countries in meeting length is clearly Spain, where incentives and special events last on average almost five days, nearly two days longer than the European average.

Meeting activity in Asia Pacific is more mixed, surging ahead in some countries and softening in others. The Chinese mainland continues to experience strong demand as a destination and healthy growth in the number of meetings, while in Australia some meeting cancellations are contributing to a slowdown. A similar softening seems to be underway in Hong Kong. Across the region, attendee levels range from stable to moderately reduced, and meeting owners are leaning toward fewer and shorter meetings overall, freeing up resources to spend on marquee events. Over 85 per cent of meetings and events in Asia and 94 per cent of those in Australia are expected to take place in large cities in 2015.

Central and South American respondents see meeting activity remaining much the same in 2015 as predicted for 2014, but are expected to make the most significant adjustments. Like North America, training meetings appear to be ‘coming back’ in 2015, with the largest increase of 2.4 per cent predicted, followed by incentive and special events at 1.3 per cent. The dominant effect of the recent sporting events in Brazil is expected to continue through the 2016 global sporting event in Rio de Janeiro. In addition, respondents are predicting a rise in the share of meetings in large cities from 65 per cent in 2014 to 72 per cent in 2015.

Below are high-level snapshots of the key 2015 predictions based on a survey of meetings professionals in each region.

Survey highlights: Regional meetings professional predictions  
Prediction North America Europe Asia Pacific Central/South
Number of
+0.3% +0.4% +2.1% +0.1%
Number of
Attendees per
+0.2% -1.0% +1.3% -0.5%
Days per Meeting 2.3 2.2 4.0 2.4
Overall meeting
spend within
+0.3% -0.7% +0.2% +0.9%
Group Hotel
+4.6% +1.1% +4.3% +2.3%

Top five meetings destinations in North America

  1. Chicago
  2. Orlando
  3. Las Vegas
  4. Atlanta
  5. San Diego
Survey highlights: Predicted change in number of meetings by meeting type
North America Europe Asia Pacific Central/South America
Sales/Marketing +0.5% +0.2% +1.1% -1.2%
Training +0.9% +0.1% +1.0% +2.4%
Internal Team Meeting 0.0% +0.5% +1.9% +0.4%
Product Launch
0.0% 0.0% +0.6% -0.5%
Conferences/Tradeshows +0.1% +0.4% +0.9% -1.1%
Senior Leadership
Meeting/Board Meeting
+0.7% +0.5% +2.0% -0.2%
Advisory Board +0.5% +1.2% +0.2% -0.7%
Incentive/Special Events -0.2% 0.0% +0.7% +1.3%

Insights and best practices

Forecast participants also provided insight into what’s top of mind for 2015 meetings and events planning. Key areas of consideration for 2015 include:

  • Empowering digital event solutions – Meeting professionals now have the opportunity to rethink meeting design and content delivery to capitalize on digital solutions and engage the audience in new and exciting ways. Four solutions – attendee management, event mobile applications, social media solutions and hybrid meeting solutions – can increase the prevalence and importance in digital event solutions.
  • Planning meetings and events in emerging countries – The meeting business in emerging countries has grown significantly in recent years, as these economies have increased in importance. There are five aspects to meeting planning that are imperative for planners to focus on in order to ensure their meeting goes smoothly in an emerging country: security, technology, transportation, food and beverage, and payments.
  • The benefits of attendee travel management – Best practices and customer feedback have demonstrated that integrating travel planning with meetings management can provide substantial benefits related to experience, cost, and duty of care. Integrating air travel as part of the overall planning process can benefit meeting planners and attendees alike. Air travel is an integral part of the logistical, financial, and experiential aspect of an event. In particular, group air planning can benefit a meeting at all stages, from destination evaluation, budgetary savings, and agenda optimization to improved communications, increased productivity, and risk reduction.
  • Event production trends and insights – As technology and the role of mobile apps, virtual/hybrid meeting tools and more play an increasing role in meetings and events, event production agencies can serve as a guide to integration into the overarching event experience. Meeting owners should consider if the use of technology is appropriate for the event experience and if it can serve a real purpose and not act as a distraction.

The Forecast findings are based on a comprehensive survey, extensive meetings and events data, and in-depth interviews of meetings professionals – including planners, buyers and hotel suppliers from around the world – conducted by American Express Meetings & Events. The Forecast examines predictions regarding budget, spend, the number of meetings, lead times and other meetings-specific metrics by geographic region. It also provides insight into key trends in meeting planning for 2015, and explores some of the key tactics meeting planners are expected to use to reduce costs and improve program efficiency. Please note that forecasts can change due to unforeseen circumstances. Please access the full report here.

About the American Express Meetings & Events Forecast

The Forecast identifies key meetings activities and trends for 2015 on a global and regional basis, to help meeting professionals and executives strategically direct and make effective use of their meeting investment. To develop the 2015 Meetings Forecast, a number of sources were used including proprietary American Express Meetings & Events data sources, licensed third-party data and industry information, as well as interviews with industry leaders. Information and data was gathered from actual and planned meetings activity of American Express Meetings & Events globally. Surveys of meeting professionals were conducted via Cvent’s proprietary web survey software to gather trends across North America, Europe (France, BeNeLux, Germany, Nordic, Spain and United Kingdom), Asia Pacific and Central/South America. A survey of leading hotel suppliers and follow-up interviews were also used to inform the finding in this Forecast.

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