A major European Meetings Industry report presented at EIBTM 2008 this month, by The Right Solution MD Sally Greenhill revealed that the ‘Mood of the Market’ was optimistic and upbeat, yet acknowledges there is a challenging year ahead for the sector. The research, conducted by The Right Solution in conjunction with Reed Travel Exhibitions, organizers of EIBTM, AIBTM, and sister shows across the globe, surveyed 700 meetings industry professionals, including association and corporate in-house organizers and PCO’s from a range of countries across Europe.

When asked which country in the Americas they held events in the past 12 months, the results showed that 40 percent of respondents organized events and meetings in the USA, with the next most popular being Brazil with 15 percent. The USA came in 5th as the most popular destination chosen by 40.3 percent of the respondents for events with 284 out of 700 selecting the country. It was the leading destination outside of Europe with France, Italy, Spain, and Germany above.

The results showed that 64 percent say the economic climate and pressure to reduce costs are the key factor of influence for next year.

However, 25 percent of respondents were set to organize more international events in 2009, 9 percent to organize more national events, and 35 percent set to keep events about the same as last year. In terms of the number of delegates attending events in 2008, the research showed that they had either remained the same or increased over 2007.

When it came to budgets, 39 percent already see a decrease in budgets for next year, yet a total of 61 percent of respondents anticipated their budgets to either increase 20 percent or remain the same (41 percent).

Despite the economic issues taking precedence, 86 percent stated that CSR and environmental policies would be extremely or somewhat influential over the next ten years, with nearly half (46 percent) believing that their CSR policies impacted on all aspects of event organization.

Although location was the top factor influencing venue selection, followed by price/value for money, quality of service is the next most important factor highlighting the importance of retaining service levels even when costs are under pressure.

The research showed that respondents rated the content of an event and the cost of attending a meeting as less important than the appeal of the destination and the venue. These results may reflect the many different types of events that respondents were responsible for, which include incentives. Celebrity speakers were considered far less important to delegates, perhaps down to the potential cost of engaging them.

Commenting on the ‘Mood of the Market’ research Paul Kennedy, MBE, group exhibition director, Meetings and Incentives Events, Reed Travel Exhibitions said: “There is no doubt that 2009 will be a challenging year for everyone in the meetings industry. This report provides a realistic snapshot of how meetings and event organizers are feeling about the industry and the extent to which events and business levels may be affected in the future.

“The mood is one of optimism despite concerns, reflecting the astonishingly upbeat mood of EIBTM (December 2008), which itself broke all records with 50,000 pre-scheduled appointments taking place over the 3 days. It will be vital for events to offer a valuable and worthwhile use of time, which is also enjoyable and stimulating for all those attending, yet perceived as neither extravagant nor too exclusive in its appeal. It will require careful consideration of all options for destinations, travel methods, venues, content, and speakers to achieve an appropriate balance.

“Seeing how the USA has performed for the European meetings industry in particular shows what value for money, service, and choice the country provides even if the $ has be strong compared to the Euro and UK sterling. We are launching AIBTM in Baltimore 2010 at a time when the USA is now once again even more competitive and attractive as a destination. Equally, this research shows there is still potential to grow the USA as both a domestic and international destination for the meetings industry, and AIBTM will provide that platform.”