Meeting in the future

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A year has passed since CMW asked the global meetings industry their predictions for working in 2011. Did they come true?

Ben Goedegebuure, Sales Director at the Scottish Conference and Exhibition Centre: “This year will continue with the same trends as the last and cover two main themes. The first is loyalty and partnership, basically an increasing effort to keep what we have, but to work smarter and in partnership with clients to gain long-term relationships that last through what is already looking to be a pretty turbulent year for the industry.

The second trend will be the growing international nature of this industry; we are seeing closer relationships internationally. IMEX America represents a growing trend to attract international events inbound and outbound.”

Aloysius Arlando, CEO of the Singex Group: “Economic uncertainty will continue to cast a shadow on the industry, with organisers having to persuade delegates and sponsors harder on the return on investment (ROI) of meetings. Delegates in turn will also have to put in more effort to justify their attendance to their management.

Against this backdrop, the innovative use of technology at meetings and venues will be a key differentiating factor. It’s no longer about adopting new media but how creatively you use it to engage delegates, as well as win new business or retain existing clients.”

Amanda Kotze-Nhlapo, Executive Manager Conventions Bureau for South Africa’s National Convention Bureau: “The industry is still making a slow and steady recovery from the global economic crisis; a recovery that has proven to be faster in the emerging economies than in parts of Europe |and North America.

Shorter lead times on the bookings for corporate meetings in particular have become prevalent, meaning there is increasing pressure on destinations to be readily available for hosting. Having a reliable and proven infrastructure network, including accommodation, transport and always-on connectivity have become paramount for taking advantage of short lead times.”

Rosa Garriga Mora, Marketing and Media Manager at Event ROI Institute: “Last year was one of innovation, experimentation and creativity, as often happens during tough economic times. Meeting professionals have been pushing the boundaries to create more effective events, and while the learning curve is still steep, we’re on the right track to delivering maximum value to different stakeholders.”

Dan Rivlin, MD of Kenes Group: “Last year we noticed that some clients were far more aware of cost issues in view of the changes in economy and strategy of some of our sponsors.
This in turn forced planners to present alternative plans to the associations’ traditional activities.

The pressure was felt especially at the mid-size global, European and US association levels.
Clients seeking long-term outsourced solutions were mostly looking for additional values. In return, bid processes became more fascinating and time consuming with potential clients looking for proof concepts such as study cases on their associations, demonstrating companies’ capabilities, and an emphasise on competitive advantage of the market players.”  

Jonny Sullens, Portfolio Director at International Confex: “One of the trends we are seeing going into this year is an increased focus from buyers on what they want from their events. Budgets are returning but these are being invested in less events, therefore the pressure is on to make them memorable. The industry needs to give buyers reassurance on service, creativity and quality to get the most out of a tough 2012.”

Susan Frei, Director of International Meetings and Incentives for Canadian Tourism Commission: “Last year saw a slow but steady resurgence in conference and incentive travel. While spend remained moderate, booking numbers continued to increase as the year went on. As
we enter 2012, we forecast that client budgets will get bigger, as will booking numbers.
In terms of the association market, the business is out there, there will just be many hungry destinations fighting over the same business.”

Graeme Barnett, Exhibition Director at EIBTM: “Improved profitability has encouraged many companies to increase their overall spend on meetings, even in those countries where recovery has been slower than expected.

It’s a varied picture overall, with the national economies of some countries – notably Brazil, Russia, India and China – going from strength to strength, albeit at a slightly slower pace than last year; while the advanced economies of the US and Europe are struggling with significant problems
of high levels of unemployment and the Eurozone debt crisis. Africa, although underdeveloped is becoming an prominent focus for opportunity and we have also witnessed Turkey rising as a meetings destination.”

Jane Baker, Business Development Manager at CWT Meetings and Events: “We expect 2012 to bring a sustained focus on ROI for event marketers in order to justify budgets, with strategic meetings management ever more important for procurement teams.

For us, forecasting in unpredictable times remains a challenge, as will staffing our teams, as we see major events increasing a demand for both full time and freelance staff. Attracting and fostering the best talent will be a key focus.”

Paul Kennedy MBE, Director of Kennedy Integrated Solutions: “With the emergence of additional infrastructure investment in sub Saharan Africa some newer meetings destinations will either enter the market or attempt to raise the levels of brand awareness about their offer.

Given the pressure on some Mediterranean EU countries I believe there will be great opportunities to obtain large discounting in these destinations, potentially great for the planner, but with it comes the risk of lower quality service delivery.”

Anatoly Erkulov, General Director of ExpoForum, Russia: “The Russian market is made up of many small organisations, and there is no clear leader. Recently, many conferences were held by publishing houses, and we can see a significant growth of events, which are taking place in the hotels.

The past year has demonstrated reduction in the number of independent congresses and growth of complex congress and exhibition events.

In Russia an event including a congress and exhibition shows greater financial stability than separately held events. Total results for 2011 may have an impact of expectations of the second wave of crisis, fears of which are taking place among the Russian participants.”

Ho Yoke Ping, GM for Sales and Marketing at the Malaysia Convention and Exhibition Bureau:
“There is a bigger focus on ROI, value and risk assessment involved when selecting destinations; and associations have emerged from the financial crisis with a resolve to achieve greater ROI and to minimise risk.

The corporate and incentive market is still primarily focussed on short- to medium-haul destinations but there are signs of positive growth in longer haul markets. Other developing regions include India, Middle East, South America and Eastern Europe, where infrastructure and capabilities are growing rapidly.”

Xavier Borg, GM of Pau Pyrenees Tourism: “The economic crisis has made competition stronger than ever with organisers planning fewer events over a shorter period but, with more participants. In order to relaunch business tourism in our area which suffered from the crisis, some three- and four-star hotels have had to offer up to 20 per cent off regular rates.

For 2012, we expect the corporate market to improve slowly, but particularly for banks and insurance markets who need to gather as strong as ever in this period of crisis.”

Steen Jakobsen,
Convention Director at Wonderful Copenhagen: “I’m excited to see how meeting planners are focusing on implementing sustainability into their events. I also find it interesting to see how elements of meeting architecture and social media are becoming important building blocks of meetings and events.

The financial turmoil continues to make the future difficult to predict.

We cannot expect things to return to ‘normal’. The new ‘normal’ is constant change, and the challenge is to manoeuvre in such an environment.”

Kristina Jurjevec, Project Manager for Conventa: “Since all budgets were cut to a minimum it took extra energy and creativity to stand out from the crowd. We learnt we can be successful when acting differently to the standard marketing practices.

In 2011 we will again have a chance to prove the importance of our industry to the country’s economy. Information overload will make us follow new technology trends wisely. Our progress potential is in investing our time into educational programmes. Our hopes lie in new strengths being employed to empower our services.”

Ray Bloom, IMEX Group Chairman: “Continued economic pressures in many world markets are driving a constant search for ‘added value’. This means buyers are constantly seeking,
if not demanding, ways to add value without increasing budgets.

On the other side of the equation, suppliers are trying to satisfy that demand through creativity without eating up margins or profits. This is quite challenging, especially when so many in consumer markets are creating high expectations that are harder to replicate in the world of B2B. 
Expect to see more destinations conducting economic studies to demonstrate the local, regional and national impact of events. In turn, these studies will become important tools for political advocacy.”

Karen Bolinger, CEO of Melbourne Convention and Visitors Bureau: “Asia is experiencing a period of growth with a number of locations materialising as key business event destinations, providing further competition in the Asia-Pacific region.

However, China and India in particular are key emerging markets for corporate and incentive travel, which we are taking full advantage of.”

Aigars Smiltans, Marketing Director at Meet Riga: “The meetings industry is recovering in Europe, but it is still not as active as it was before 2008. In 2011, the meetings planning process happened over a shorter time and was allocated within a short distance from the place of origin. Short-notice bookings were the new black of this year particularly for events and conferences for up to 100 delegates.”

Datuk Peter Brokenshire, GM at Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre: “I expect more corporate meetings will experience budget constraints and a potential dip in attendance numbers.

The nature of the industry also makes it more recession-proof as international association meetings will continue to convene and rotate around the world. In addition, economic fluctuations drive engagement, dialogue and the need for industry experts to convene and continue to advance development and growth.”

Ramy Salameh, PR for Korea Tourism Organisation: “There are major opportunities in North Africa because of the recent political upheavals. Once these countries have had the chance to restructure and rebuild themselves, I can see there being a lot of foreign investment from major hotel brands and a push to establish a thriving MICE sector. This will definitely be
an emerging region.”

Sally Greenhill, MD of The Right Solution: “Undoubtedly technology changes have impacted the meetings industry, with more corporates and associations communicating through social media before, during and after their meetings and more use of virtual meetings to extend audience reach. Use of location aware software is a great thing for international delegates in new places.”

James Kent, International Marketing Manager for Kyoto Convention Bureau: “The destinations which will prosper in 2012 will be those which are part of and add to the experience of an event. There has to be a compelling reason to make the journey part of the meeting.

Content will always be the number one reason to attend, but destinations that make themselves part of the contents are going to be desirable.”
 
Rohit Talwar, CEO of Fast Future Research: “There’s been a lot of noise about hybrid events but we need to approach the issue objectively. Even though the cost of creating hybrid events is dropping dramatically, we have yet to find an example of an event that has broken even in terms of balancing the full cost of moderating the activity against the revenues from remote participants.
Bizarrely, in hybrid events we have found that those paying little or nothing for virtual participation get more content and attention focused on them, than at the live event.”

Sarah Mathews, Meetings, Incentives and Conferences Manager at Belgium Convention Bureau for Flanders and Brussels: “Meeting planners were still concerned over budget and had very strict guidelines. Last year gave way to great opportunity for creativity.”

Patrik Dyrendahl, Project manager at Visit East Sweden: “I am happy to see that sustainability is becoming a hygiene factor for many meeting planners; a supplier is expected to be able to present green meetings. Web conferences are gaining ground, especially for international companies with offices around the world and the software has become cheaper and more user friendly.”  

Any comments? Email cmw@mashmedia.net

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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