14 Revealing Trends From the Global Meetings Forecast for 2017

The industry's steady growth in recent years may be slowing down, according to a new report from American Express Meetings & Events.

For the report, American Express Meetings & Events conducts surveys and interviews with meeting professionals, hoteliers, airlines, and other experts from around the world.

Illustration: Courtesy of American Express Meetings & Events

Meetings activity may slow down in the coming year, including a decrease in the number of meetings held and the number of attendees per meeting. That’s just one of the findings in the 2017 Global Meetings & Events Forecast produced by American Express Meetings & Events. The report, released Monday, is based on the company’s internal data, plus a survey of meeting professionals and hotel and airline suppliers and interviews with experts from around the world including companies such as Cvent, Delta Airlines, Air Canada, the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Hilton Worldwide, and more. In the executive summary, Issa Jouaneh, senior vice president and general manager of American Express Meetings & Events, writes, “Respondents in North America predict meeting spend will be flat with less than 1 percent change in budget overall. The tempered meetings activity predictions for 2017 may be influenced by the uncertainty associated with the November presidential elections in the U.S., and the economic slowdown in Canada.”

Here is a summary of some of the key findings related to meetings and events in North America.

1. Respondents in North America predict decreases in the number of their larger meetings, such as product launches, conferences, tradeshows, incentives, and special events.

2. Attendee size is expected to decline for several internal meeting types, including training, senior leadership, and advisory board meetings.

3. Following the largest forecasted spend increase in four years in 2016, predictions for 2017 indicate meeting budgets will remain relatively flat or decrease slightly.

4. The cost per attendee, excluding air travel, is highest for incentives and special events, at $640 per person, and lowest for internal team meetings, at $293 per person.

5. When a meeting budget reaches its limit, off-site evening events and the length of meetings are the first areas where cuts will be made.

6. Cuts are rarely made in communication, registration, and audiovisual technology, because these areas are viewed as crucial to the quality of a meeting and the attendees’ experience of the meeting.

7. Regarding the location of events, predictions that activity will take place in large cities dropped from 80 percent last year to 73 percent in this report. In contrast, predictions for second-tier cities increased, from 20 percent for 2016 to 27 percent for 2017.

8. The top two factors influencing the selection of location are the specific type of location needed—such as near a customer or near a training facility—and the ease of air travel and other transportation to that location.

9. Group hotel rates within North America are expected to remain relatively flat compared with expected increases globally.

10. The openings of midscale and luxury hotels in North America are expected to decline from 731 in 2016 to 538 in 2017, and meeting planners will continue to be challenged by limited hotel supply.

11. New York, Chicago, and Dallas are expected to have the most hotel openings in North America, with 24, 12, and 10 openings respectively in each city.

12. Room rates and complimentary meeting space are the top priorities for companies when negotiating with hotels.

13. Nearly one-third of organizations in North America do not have a formal meetings policy.

14. Virtual and hybrid meeting use in North America and Europe will remain relatively unchanged in 2017, with one-quarter of meeting owners using these types of meetings.

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