ICCA Gives Optimistic Economic Outlook, Reports Record Attendance at 2008 Congress

The International Congress & Convention Association (ICCA), based in the Netherlands, enjoyed record attendance at its 2008 ICCA Congress, it announced last week. The Congress, held Nov. 1-5 in Victoria, Canada, drew 734 attendees, making it the largest ICCA Congress ever in either North or South America and the third largest ICCA Congress of all time.

"We were delighted with the overall numbers and particularly with the strong geographical spread and the seniority of delegates," ICCA CEO Martin Sirk said in a statement. "Victoria worked brilliantly for this size of event; our delegates really felt they 'took over' the city."

During the five-day Congress, ICCA presented to members—meeting professionals from more than 80 countries worldwide—its latest business outlook, based on an October survey of its 850 members. In spite of the global economic downturn, the association reported that 2008 is still likely to be a strong year for ICCA members, of which only a small minority has reported marketing or staffing cuts for 2009.

According to ICCA, 8.5 percent of survey respondents indicated having suffered a significant downturn as a result of the economic environment, compared with 6 percent in a similar survey conducted in April; 44 percent reported no impact whatsoever, compared to 60 percent in April, while the number reporting a slight impact rose from 35 percent in April to 48 percent in October.

Surprisingly, more than 39 percent of ICCA members are expecting their company’s 2008 performance to be better than 2007, which the association says was a record-breaking year for meeting planners worldwide.

As for 2009, almost 80 percent of ICCA members expect a negative impact on their business in 2009—although nearly 70 percent and 78 percent, respectively, said they are not currently planning to make cuts in their 2009 marketing budgets or staffing.

"What is perhaps most surprising is how little immediate impact has been felt so far, with 2008 still projected to be a good business year overall for most ICCA members in all regions of the world," Sirk said. "Clearly there is a great deal of concern for economic prospects in 2009 and beyond, but it is heartening to see the confidence implied by the very small numbers planning marketing or staff cuts. What is also clear from anecdotal discussions with our members is that international association meetings are expected to be the most resilient meetings industry sector, whilst corporate meetings are expected to be worst affected. With ICCA being the leading provider of research tools and marketing opportunities to reach international association decision-makers, this puts our association in an excellent position to help ICCA member companies and organizations weather the challenges heading towards us all."