by Matt Alderton | October 09, 2017

The meetings and events industry should be "optimistic," according to American Express Meetings & Events, the meetings and events division of American Express Global Business Travel, which today published its "2018 Global Meetings and Events Forecast." In it, it predicts industry growth as a result of "increased competition in the supply chain for market share, and robust investments and a desire for consolidation of spend by buyers."

In other words: Meeting planners have money to spend, but they want to spend it with fewer suppliers; that will make 2018 a buyer's market for meetings and events, American Express Meetings & Events suggests.

"Following the shifting sentiment in 2017, next year should be more positive around the world in terms of spend, number of meetings, and attendees," said Issa Jouaneh, senior vice president and general manager, American Express Meetings & Events. "Economic and geopolitical influences will continue to create uncertainty, but we anticipate ongoing industry resilience and continued focus on successful experiences."

In response to attendees' changing tastes, meeting professionals' definition of "successful experiences" is evolving, according to American Express Meetings & Events suggests, which says the key focus of meeting planners and owners around the world in 2018 will be improving the attendee experience -- with a special emphasis on improving meeting content and production, as well as increasing attendance numbers.

"Meeting owners are prioritizing attendee experience and engagement over scale," Jouaneh continued. "As a result, we expect to see shorter, more focused meetings."

Regional Predictions

Meeting industry growth will be strongest in North America and Australia, according to American Express Meetings & Events. In the former, it reports, the amount of money spent on meetings and events will increase as a result of rising regional airfares and hotel rates. In the latter, it predicts, spend likewise will rise, along with attendance.

Australia notwithstanding, the rest of Asia Pacific has "expressed reservations," according to American Express Meetings & Events, which says a combination of rising hotel rates and falling meetings activity has led to budget constraints and an expected increase in cost per attendee. As a result, meeting planners in that region will spend 2018 focusing most on basic meetings management and support in order to control meetings spend and demonstrate value.

In Europe, geopolitical uncertainty has created a potpourri of predictions. In the United Kingdom and Poland, for example, American Express Meetings & Events forecasts increased meetings spend. Elsewhere on the continent, decreasing or flat meetings activity is expected. That along with price increases will likely drive meeting planners to plan shorter meetings across Europe.

Finally, American Express Meetings & Events forecasts "modest" growth in Latin America, where meetings' length and attendance both are expected to increase thanks to the efforts of local governments and companies that have been actively promoting the region as a destination for meetings and events. Especially popular are Mexico and Colombia, according to American Express Meetings & Events, although both are challenged by rising hotel rates and limited supply for large groups.

Trends

American Express Meetings & Events says the biggest trends in meetings and events next year will be: the continued localization of meetings programs, which reflects meeting planners' desire to craft programs that address the needs and nuances of specific markets; tech-driven consumer experiences, which will continue to evolve thanks to emerging technologies like virtual reality (VR) and artificial intelligence (AI); and compliance, which is creating challenges for corporate meetings in China, especially.

Based on a comprehensive survey of global meeting professionals, American Express Meetings & Events' "Global Meetings and Events Forecast" is now in its seventh edition. The report -- which contains special sections on corporate meetings in China, meetings management benchmarking, and event attendee personas -- is available for complimentary download from American Express Meetings & Events' website.


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