by Alex Palmer | October 15, 2018

Steady growth is now the norm for the meetings industry. That was the conclusion of the 2019 Global Meetings and Events Forecast, released today by American Express Meetings & Events, a division of American Express Global Business Travel, which found an uptick in meeting spend and attendees numbers across the globe for the fourth consecutive year. 

The report, which draws on the responses of more than 700 meetings and events professionals globally, found that meeting budgets in North America are expected to increase by 0.8 percent and overall meeting activity levels expected to grow from 0.5 percent to 1.33 percent, depending on the type of gathering (conferences/trade shows for the former, client advisory boards for the latter and all other events falling somewhere in between). 

Small but consistent increases were found for other regions of the globe as well, with just a few exceptions; notably, there was an expected 0.65% decline in meetings in Europe. 

"2019 will be a growth year for the meetings industry, with activity expected to increase across all meeting types and regions," said Issa Jouaneh, senior vice president and general manager at American Express Meetings & Events, in a statement.

Jouaneh pointed to the ongoing consolidation across hotel and technology suppliers, "driving shifts in choice and putting increased pressure on meeting owners and planners." North American respondents predicted the greatest impact of this consolidation to be "lower commission rates" (cited by 68 percent of respondents), followed by "more challenging contract negotiations" (67 percent) and "changes in contractual terms and conditions" (cited by 50percent).

The report highlighted the growing importance of compliance and privacy concerns, pointing to how the General Data Protection Regulation has put a greater focus on data management for meetings and events. Meeting technology was a top issue, with planners in North America expecting a nearly 3 percent increase in mobile app use in 2019. 

The factors influencing meeting location were consistent with last year's findings, with the top factor cited being "specific location type needed -- airport, near training facility, near customer location, etc." (37 percent of respondents), followed by "ease of air lift/transportation to location for attendees" (32 percent), and "client directive based on past experience" and "repeat destination for meeting" tied at 22 percent. Rounding out the top five was "safety concerns" at 19 percent.

"Strategic meetings built around defined goals that prioritize the attendee experience and embrace technology will continue to elevate meetings as a business tool despite these challenges," added Jouaneh.

The full report, which delves into trends for each region, and includes special sections on "The Future of Personalization," "Meetings Legal Trends" and a "Latin America Destination Report," is available for download here.