IBTM’s Trends watching brief

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IBTM’s Trends watching brief

CMW presents an edited section of IBTM World’s Trends Watch Report 2022 which collated key studies on the Meetings and Events industry performance over 2021

Corporate Events
‘Ensuring the sustainability of events’ has risen to become the key challenge corporate organisers are looking to tackle between now and 2024, according to the 2021 ICE Annual Benchmarking Research Report. ICE, which stands for ‘In-house Corporate Events’, is a UK-based organisation that works closely with event organisers around the world.

Within the ICE report, ‘green’ objectives lead the way with 77% of respondents scoring ‘ensuring sustainability’ ahead of any other priority. The second most popular response was ‘the ability to deliver hybrid events’ (73%), with the research representing both the anxiety and opportunity of creating hybrid events. The third most pressing objective for the corporate market over the next few years was ‘educating internal audiences on when live/hybrid formats should be adopted’ (53%).

The ICE report also underlined the importance of measurement to event organisers in achieving sustainability goals. Most planners reported that their organisations have already established CSR goals, however ‘measurement’ (40%) remains critical to ensuring these objectives. Across the research, organisers prioritised the ‘tracking of CO2 emissions’ as a key metric for live events, behind ‘electricity consumption’, ‘distance travelled by visitors and organisers’, and ‘sustainability of catering’.

In the meantime, delivering more virtual/hybrid events also remains a key challenge for planners. Now individuals have more experience delivering technological events, challenges have moved to the volume being delivered and to optimising the experience.

However, as well as the immediate challenges the industry faces, ICE continues to show its concern around a lack of a clear ‘home’ for event planners within the organisational structures. The report highlighted the issue; 50% of respondents saw the natural place of events within the marketing division, however the remainder were spread across over 15 different company departments.

The research also underlined the growing challenges to event professionals’ well-being and effectiveness, with 14 different skills identified as being important to the role, up from 10 in last year’s report. These included working with stakeholders (31%), multi-tasking (30%) and project management (50 %). Converting events to digital (67 %) and understanding technology (69 %) were both predictably strong new inclusions in the growing demands for event professionals

Association Conferences
For the 60th Annual Congress in October 2021, the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) implemented a hub-and-spoke event model that featured a Congress host in Cartagena, Colombia, and five Congress Hub locations worldwide. Delegates could also participate on a virtual platform and flexible registration allowed people to change their registration type without an additional fee.

For ICCA, this model resulted in a record number of Congress attendees during the pandemic, while creating a more sustainable footprint. The association believes the model will continue to be replicated by larger associations that have the financial and personnel capabilities to make it viable.

This financial viability is a major point for association congresses. Events clearly have a higher purpose for these organisations, however, for many, they are also a major source of income that is much needed by associations.

To really assess the fortunes of the association events industry, the Trends report turns to ICCA’s Statistics Study 2020. That report looks at the previous year’s statistics and gives us an idea of the sector’s trajectory. The study reported that a total of 8,409 unique meetings were identified which were either held or planned in 2020. In the previous year’s report, the number was 13,252, a significant drop-off that the association believes can be ‘partially explained by the fact that numerous event websites were taken offline prematurely or were never established in the first place as a consequence of the pandemic’.

On a regional basis, the report looks at the unaffected and affected meetings per region and observes that the Middle East had the lowest percentage of meetings postponed and cancelled (49% combined). This means that 51% of all meetings in 2020 took place, either unaffected (19%), virtual (29%), relocated (2%) or hybrid (1%).

When it comes to subject matter, ICCA has long been monitoring the industries and interests that have driven the meetings sector. This year’s statistics show that, of all meetings planned for 2020, those concerning technology had the highest percentage of virtual (48%) and hybrid (3%) meetings. As a result, these technological associations had the highest continuation-rate, with events adding up to a total of 61% continuation. Behind technology, associations focusing on education had the second highest percentage of virtual meetings (32%). Like technology, the education sector also might have become accustomed to virtual meetings prior to the pandemic.

Going forward, ICCA’s outlook for the near future is a steady return to face-to-face association meetings and the overall recovery of the business events industry. Between May and September 2021, an ICCA survey of associations found that 38% of respondents were planning an in-person meeting for 2022. While 84% of the associations said that virtual meetings are more limited when it comes to networking, compared to in-person.

Meanwhile, as face-to-face events return to associations’ agendas, 51% report that they’re organising regional meetings. Nearly half (48%) of respondents said their meeting rotation schedule was not impacted (at the time of the survey) by the pandemic lockdown. ICCA have also observed that as associations reschedule their in-person events they are generally staying loyal to their original destination when feasible.

Senthil Gopinath, CEO of ICCA, says: “We’ve found that the top priorities for associations when it comes to destinations and venues are flexible contract conditions and Covid-19 related safety protocols/certification.”

Associations also want more assistance with communications regarding Covid-19 regulations and greater support with travel arrangements. Association leaders are looking to destinations and venues that are willing to share in the risk of event organising with them by offering flexible planning timelines and cancellation policies.

Incentive Travel
According to the Society of Incentive Travel Executives’ (SITE) Corporate InSITEs research, 82% of incentive travel buyers have committed to travel and planning in 2022, and only 2% have permanently moved spend away from incentive travel ahead of other rewards.

In the report, approximately 85% of all domestic incentive travel programmes are back in the diary before Q1 2022, and just under 60% of all international programmes back within the same period.

This is a section of the industry which is often signalled by this report as one that can be used as a barometer for the general health of the wider meetings and events industry. If businesses are confident in investing in incentivising, then the opportunity for the industry to convene will then be similarly healthy.

SITE’s research showed that, when it came to the crucial decision-making processes for booking incentive programmes, ‘contracts and risk management’ was top of everyone’s list with a mean score of 8.26. Close behind was ‘destination selection’ with 7.66. Similar to the corporate market, measurement became the next focus, with ‘better analytics’ (5.26) and measurement’ (4.67) both in the top five. Sustainability was just behind with a mean score of 4.07, so much a part of the conversation, but falling in comparison to having a safe, secure, reliable and measured programme.

These statistics are further supported when incentive procurement professionals were asked about the key factors when choosing incentive destinations. Again, ‘safety’ was top of the list with a mean score of 5.4, ahead of ‘destination appeal’ with 5.1. ‘Infrastructure’ and ‘access’ came next in priority with scores of 4.8 and 4.3, underlining the importance of destinations that are capable of handling incentive business.

One of the big opportunities for the sector is its ability to capitalise on trends such as: sustainability, wellness and global-local. A new breed of Destination Management Company (DMC) is being created that look to join businesses’ renewed commitment to the environment, to delegates’ increasing need to ‘connect’ with destinations and create ‘purpose’ from their travel. It allows businesses to achieve their own sustainability goals, it creates better outcomes for the delegate, while offering more value for the host destination

Conference & Meetings World is published for the international conference and meetings industry. It tackles the issues facing organisers of international events. The editorial is independent, fresh and news driven, with a global reach.

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