The meetings & events industry can be optimistic about growth prospects next year, driven by increased competition in the supply chain for market share, and robust investments and a desire for consolidation of spend by buyers, according to the 2018 Global Meetings and Events Forecast from American Express Meetings & Events.
Across the globe, the continued localisation of meetings programs will be a key trend next year, as meeting professionals seek to add flexibility and nuance to offerings that address specific market needs and drive program adoption. The link between compliance and security in today’s geopolitical landscape is another area of focus, with a special section on compliance challenges and risks associated with corporate meetings in China.
Technology is expected to continue its transformation of meetings and events in 2018, particularly on the end-to-end management of delivery and attendee experience. The potential of emerging technologies such as virtual reality and artificial intelligence, and the ongoing development of mobile-app and hybrid-meeting solutions are creating innovation and value add opportunities for both meeting owners and attendees.
“Following the shifting sentiment in 2017, next year should be more positive around the world in terms of spend, number of meetings and attendees. Meanwhile, meeting owners are prioritising attendee experience and engagement over scale. As a result, we expect to see shorter, more focused meetings,” said Issa Jouaneh, senior vice president and general manager, American Express Meetings & Events.
“Economic and geopolitical influences will continue to create uncertainty, but we anticipate ongoing industry resilience and continued focus on successful experiences,” added Jouaneh.
In Asia Pacific, meetings activity is expected to remain stable in 2018 within Asia Pacific, with small decreases of 0.8% to 1.2% in numbers of senior leadership and board meetings as well as advisory and incentive meetings. China and Hong Kong reflect the broader regional numbers, while Singapore stands out with predicted decreases of 1.4% to 2.2% for most meeting types.
Sales and marketing meetings comprise the greatest portion of expected meetings activity in the region at 20%, with even higher numbers in Australia at 27%. Product launches, advisory meetings, and incentives happen less frequently across the region, with incentives comprising 4% of meetings activity in Australia and advisory meetings at 4% in China and Hong Kong and 5% in Singapore. While conferences and tradeshows are predicted to account for less than 20% of meetings activity in the region, they represent one-third of planned activity in Singapore.
In terms of meeting sizes, half of the meeting types are expected to remain stable in terms of number of attendees in Asia Pacific. Sales and marketing meetings are expected to increase slightly in size, with respondents in Australia suggesting that this increase might be as big as 2.4%. Respondents expect that all meeting types, except training meetings, in Australia will grow in size in 2018, while most meetings types in Singapore are expected to be smaller.
As well, meeting length is predicted to remain essentially unchanged throughout the region overall. Respondents in China do, however, anticipate minor increases in the length of training meetings and product launches. In line with predicted attendee declines in the country, Singapore is expected to see small decreases of less than 1% in days per meeting for several meeting types as well.
As for budgets, predictions suggest that meeting spend in Asia Pacific will decrease by 1%. Within the region, Singapore may see the largest decreases of up to 3.7%; Australia is the exception with expected budget increases of 1.9%. With hotel rates expected to increase this is likely to create pressure on individual event budgets.
The cost per attendee is expected to remain relatively flat in 2018 across the region. Within the region there is a marked difference, however, between Australia and Singapore. While respondents in Australia expect cost per attendee to increase by nearly 1% for half of meeting types, and up to 3% for incentives, respondents in Singapore expect cost per attendee to decrease across all meeting types, from 2.4% for conferences and tradeshows up to 4% for incentive meetings.
Product launches, conferences and tradeshows, and senior leadership and board meetings are expected to have the higher costs per attendee in the region. According to respondents, cost per attendee in China and Hong Kong tend to be higher across all meeting types than cost per attendee in Australia and Singapore. Expected cost per attendee in Singapore is lower across most meeting types than cost per attendee in other countries.
When asked where they would cut costs in meeting budgets and still maintain the customer experience, one-third of respondents reflect those in other regions in suggesting off-site optional activities as the first to be cut. Thirteen percent each suggest that reducing the number of nights and room drops would be their first choice.
When asked if overall meetings budget increased 10% where they would make changes, one-fifth of respondents suggest that the preferred area of investment would be to increase the number of meetings and another fifth selected number of attendees at meetings. Nearly one-third stated that they would increase the budget for meeting content and production. These priorities reflect the emphasis we are seeing globally on more attendee-focused meetings with enhanced value.
Unlike other regions, nearly all respondents in Asia Pacific indicate that the primary locations for meetings are large cities. Only 3% identified second-tier city locations as primary for meetings. Location choice however, is complex.
The top 10 cities in Asia Pacific based on meetings and events activity remain largely the same as last year, with Bangkok moving into third and pushing Kuala Lumpur into fourth. Mumbai makes an entrance on the list this year in ninth position, taking Beijing’s place.
Respondents also suggest that 2018 group hotel rates will increase slightly by 1.4% across the region. Those in Australia expect increases up to 5.7%, setting Australia apart across the region.
In terms of property types, as with other regions, meetings professionals point to the growing range of possibilities to meet the increasing demand for unique venues. For instance, the Asia Pacific region stands out once as a more frequent user of luxury properties.