If meeting industry suppliers want to be competitive during the second half of 2010, they need to pay attention to pricing; deliver value and quality rather than frills and extras; focus on drive-in markets, return on investment (ROI) and corporate social responsibility (CSR); and offer affordable Internet access and hybrid meeting technology. Those were the big predictions the 1,832 Meeting Professionals International (MPI) members surveyed for FutureWatch 2010 had for the meetings industry.
The good news is both planners and suppliers feel as if the industry has stopped shrinking and will rebound from the end of 2010 through 2011. The bad news is, 31 percent of the meeting planners surveyed say that budget cuts are their primary concern; one that is making it difficult for them to do their jobs. Other job challenges include doing more with less (15 percent), not having enough support staff (13 percent) and having too much responsibility (11 percent). Among association planners, low event attendance also was a primary concern (10 percent). As a result, some association meetings are being consolidated or postponed. But corporate planners anticipated planning 3.6 percent more meetings with 11.7 percent more attendees this year.
When looking at destinations, meeting planners cited overall cost as the most important factor in their decisions, followed by availability of space, area hotel rates, ease of access/travel, value, attractiveness to attendees, airlift, travel cost to destination, proximity to members/attendees, and the distance from the airport to hotels and venues. When choosing venues, planners said the leading criteria was overall cost, followed by the condition and quality of the venue, available space, flexible contracts, location, customer service, meeting room rates, value, attractiveness to attendees, incentives and concessions. Planners said they primarily base hotel selection on the condition and quality of the hotel; other contributing factors were the overall cost, room rates, flexible contracts, available meeting space, food and beverage costs, location, customer service, value and the hotel’s location.
Although planners said competitive pricing is the leading factor in their decision to do business with suppliers, they also value good customer service and personal relationships above all other leading business drivers — all three of which were top priorities for suppliers, as well. And CSR was a big trend for both groups. Seventy-three percent of corporate planners, 64 percent of suppliers and 48 percent of association planners said CSR will be important to their organizations over the next year.
In terms of technology, the top priority planners had was improving the quality of presentations or audio/visual experiences at meetings. They also wanted to use technology to get better feedback from attendees, provide better Internet access at hotels and venues, identify and evaluate vendors and meeting venues/destinations, and create alternatives to face-to-face meetings.