Europe: One-Third to Hold More Meetings in 2010, Says Grass Roots

Some European buyers expect to book more meetings and almost all have less to spend per event in 2010, according to the Meetings Industry Report, a survey of 100 customers published this month by meetings and communications agency Grass Roots. The report revealed that 27 percent expect to stage fewer meetings in 2010, but 33 percent believe they will stage more.

However, only 3 percent have larger budgets per event while 46 percent have smaller ones.

Grass Roots forecasts the range of 2010 day delegate rates in most major European cities to be flat to as much as 6 percent lower than 2009 levels, according to the report, but predicts increases at four-star hotels of 2.9 percent in Milan and 3.5 percent in Nice. In the five-star category, the only cities tipped for rate increases are Paris at 4.1 percent, Rome at 5 percent and Berlin at 5.1 percent. Grass Roots sees the biggest rate falls in Budapest and Madrid, both down 6.1 percent.

"We predict rates will remain quite static," said Robert Bottomley, the U.K.-based conference director for Grass Roots. "However, by the third quarter and running into 2011, they will start to increase by 5 to 10 percent."

Bottomley endorsed his clients' views on likely meeting volumes and spend. "We are seeing more confidence in the marketplace," he said. "There were more enquiries in January, although lead times are still short: about one to six months. People are also still watching their budgets and who they are sending to their meetings. Client events are back on the radar quite significantly, but internal events remain under review." Grass Roots cited financial services and IT as the sectors most likely to increase meetings spending this year.

This year's expected trends contrast sharply with Grass Roots' day delegate rate data for 2009, which show double-digit percentage-point falls in many cities from 2008 levels. In the four-star market, the biggest losers were Milan at 28 percent, Berlin at 25 percent and Barcelona at 22 percent. For five-star properties, the steepest drops were Berlin and Vienna, both at 17 percent, and Milan at 14 percent.

The survey also showed 60 percent of clients said they would make increased use of internal meeting space this year, although 50 percent have no systems in place to help them achieve this.

Reviewing how they bought meetings in 2009, buyers shifted their choice of venues from independent hotels and specialist conference centers to internal meeting space and hotel chains.

Grass Roots said this demonstrates a desire by buyers to reduce supplier numbers and consolidate transient and meetings spending.

Originally published Feb. 15, 2010