As meeting and event planners prepare for 2019, it’s clear that financial pressure is poised to define the path of the sector going forward.

American Express Meetings & Events polled 700 event professionals on the shifting dynamics across the industry going into next year, looking at the factors that affect where planners hold meetings and the ramifications of global trends on how they operate.

Planners worldwide reported that commission cuts are affecting how they fund their meetings. In North America, for instance, 68 percent of those polled said they are dealing with lower commission rates than in previous years. This is all happening as more events are taking place with larger groups across a wider variety of destinations.

Costs are going to have to be cut, and North American planners said reducing the length of events is likely the first step. Offsite evening events and optional activities are also elements that will be reduced due to budgeting restrictions.

“Overall, costs are increasing as demand continues to outpace supply,” wrote Yma Sherry, vice president of North America for American Express Meetings & Events, in the report. “Meeting planners are trying to find ways, as always, to do more with less. They are focusing on their attendees. Are the right people attending? Should they reduce the number of attendees? In certain cases, they’re using virtual technology for the general sessions, broadcasting the meeting to the people who were unable to attend the meeting live.”

Still, though, virtual and hybrid meetings comprise an extremely small percentage of the total events held worldwide.

Given these factors, how are planners choosing where to hold their events? The research shows that a variety of factors contribute to making the decision, with convenience and specificity particularly important.

Top Factors Influencing Meeting Location (Top 2 Factors)
North AmericaEuropeCentral/South AmericaAsia Pacific
Economic/political instability concerns16%21%30%39%
Currency/exchange rate6%15%28%15%
Online reviews9%10%17%23%
Safety concerns19%21%24%22%
Perceptions around “resort” destinations for meetings14%10%13%20%
Participation in company or organization’s preferred supplier program22%17%20%18%
Past experience of a colleague9%13%13%25%
Ease of transportation to location32%26%17%12%
Client directive based on past experience22%12%11%5%
Repeat destination for meeting15%16%9%8%
Specific location type needed37%37%19%15%

Planners need space to fit the particular needs of an event, and are finding what they need outside of top meetings destinations more often due to the proliferation of conference hotels in secondary cities.

“It first started with mid-tier hotels in different cities; most of the new hotels that were being built were those midsize hotels, they built these hotels with meeting attendees in mind,” said Milton Rivera, vice president of global business development and strategy for American Express Meetings and Events. “So what’s happened is in the secondary cities where the majority of hotels are mid-tier hotels, some of that demand has begun to port over.”

Internal meetings remain the most frequent across all global regions, with North America holding the most team meetings and Europe holding the most conferences and trade shows.

Meetings Activity by Type
North AmericaEuropeCentral/South AmericaAsia Pacific
Internal Team Meeting or Training30%24%26%23%
Product Launch13%13%13%14%
Conference or Trade Show15%18%12%16%
Senior Leadership Meeting16%15%19%16%
Advisory Board15%18%14%16%
Incentive or Special Event11%12%17%15%

Budgets are creeping up along with costs, but another factor is contributing to the pressure felt by planners: organizations have become smarter about tracking spending on events and are holding planners more responsible for producing results.

“What has changed over the years in North America and Western Europe is visibility on the spending of meetings,” said Rivera. “Most major corporations have better visibility on what they spend on meetings so now there is a bit more control of budgets. Meeting planners are now faced with more finite budgets to accomplish the same or better than what they’ve done in prev years. With more press on the planner to execute, the expectation of delighting the attendee has increased but now you’re faced with a finite budget. The pressure is on the planner to find new and creative ways to succeed.”

There report also delves into how planners are approach new forms of technology. Respondents said personalization is going to be the next big thing, even if no one has spent much time yet figuring out how to implement more personalized technology solutions into their events.

For the time being, mobile apps are most frequently used to alert attendees to schedule changes or improve engagement and communication during events.

Read the full report below.

Download (PDF, 6.55MB)

Photo Credit: Stockholm, June 12-15 2017: 25th European Biomass Conference & Exhibition Flickr