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Survey: What Keeps Meeting Planners Up at Night? And Other Essential Destination Research

A new report from Development Counsellors International asked meeting planners about their biggest challenges, their top destinations (and least-favorite spots), and if there has been a "Trump effect" on meetings and events.

Meeting planners cited London as their favorite destination in Europe for business events.
Meeting planners cited London as their favorite destination in Europe for business events.

Safety and security top the list of concerns for today's meeting planners, according to a new survey from Development Counsellors International (DCI). Other challenges include how long destinations take to respond to RFPs and potential budget cuts to their events.

The report, "A View From Meeting Planners: Winning Strategies in Destination Marketing," surveyed 181 meeting planners from the United States and Canada who plan events around the world. It's the third edition of the report, compiled every three years by DCI and designed for destination marketers and other suppliers.

The survey asked planners what keeps them up at night, and safety and security topped the list. In an age of natural disasters and terrorist attacks, the answer "wasn't surprising at all," said Daniella Middleton, DCI's vice president of tourism. Planners also said they expect host destinations to help them implement safety and security measures.

Another top concern for meeting planners is the responsiveness of destinations to requests for information, which 38 percent of respondents cited. The survey also found that 36 percent of respondents are nervous about cuts to their event budgets.

"That's huge," Middleton said of the responsiveness answer. "It's not that destinations and suppliers aren't replying in a timely manner, but it's a miscommunication of, how fast can you get me an RFP? Being in the industry for almost 15 years, I didn't see that as something that kept them up at night."

DCI recommends that destinations turn around an RFP within 24 hours with a template and then follow up with information customized for a specific group.

Another surprise was the "Trump effect" on meetings—or rather, the lack thereof. Two-thirds of respondents said the president has not changed their likelihood of planning events in the United States. "That was maybe something that was talked about a lot more than it actually happened," Middleton said.

The survey also asked planners to name their favorite—and least favorite—destinations internationally and globally. Topping the list, by region, was Buenos Aires (Latin America and South America); Dubai (Middle East); London (Europe); San Diego (United States and Canada); and Singapore (Asia Pacific). The least favorite domestic destinations were Las Vegas, Detroit, and New York, while internationally, the lowest-ranking were Istanbul and Turkey, Mexico City, and Russia. However, Middleton noted that New York, Las Vegas, and Mexico City also placed on the top destinations lists, indicating polarized views by planners.

Destinations looking to influence meeting planners should take note of one trend: Social media is starting to sway meeting planners' perceptions of destinations. (Face-to-face meetings with destination reps is still the top factor.) Planners cited LinkedIn as their top social media platform for information.

"Finally!" Middleton said. "I remember being disappointed in the last study when it was not even of importance at all. It's still not the leading factor by any means, but jumped from 3 percent to 17 percent as a top source of information. Is it going to be the ultimate reason they select your destination? Likely not. But if a destination doesn't have a social media strategy, now is the time to start creating one and implementing one. You don't want to wait until 30 percent of planners report it's an important part of their decision-making process."

The full study is available here.

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