The outlook for the U.S. meetings industry is improving, according to a survey that polled 505 professional meeting planners throughout the country. The news comes after 18 months of declining demand and an uncertain future.
The survey, commissioned by the Professional Convention Management Association, the PCMA Education Foundation and American Express, was conducted online in April and May. Of the 505 respondents, 56 percent were association planners; the rest were corporate, incentive or independent planners.
Among the results:
- Off-site bookings in 2010 rose 15 percent compared with 2009, and 24 percent for 2011 (about 17 more meetings per planner).
- Expectations about attendance at off-site meetings rose 23 percent for 2010 and 38 percent for 2011.
- Only 6 percent planned to postpone, cancel or re-book 2010 meetings because of the economy vs. 41 percent in 2009.
- 89 percent had no plans to postpone, cancel or re-book meetings in 2010-2011 vs. 54 percent in 2009.
“While it’s been a difficult 18 months for our industry, I’m encouraged to see both actual business as well as business sentiment improving,” stated Deborah Sexton, PCMA president and CEO. “There continues to be caution in budgets and cost controls, which is to be expected, but if we can stay on this positive trend there are certainly brighter days ahead.”
Conversely, the survey also showed that planners seem to be judiciously choosing meeting destinations and venues, with cruise ship events dropping 15 percent, luxury accommodations dropping 24 percent and mid-scale lodging increasing by 18 percent. About one-third of those polled plan to shorten meetings by at least one day, although one in four said they are working with slightly bigger budgets.
“These survey results reveal promising signs of a revival for corporate meetings and incentives,” stated Issa Jouaneh, vice president, Maxvantage and Global Meeting Solutions, American Express Business Travel. “As meeting activity rebounds, cost control will remain top of mind and it will be critical for planners to make strategic spending choices. Companies with effective meetings programs will be those that continue to promote policies that deliver a strong return on investment from meetings, while balancing the need to deliver on stakeholder objectives and creating the designed attendee experience.”