European meetings and events usually last four days – compared with nearly a week in the past – but they are more intensive than they used to be. This is just one of the trends observed by meeting and event professionals at Carlson Wagonlit Travel (CWT), the word’s second biggest travel management company, when comparing their clients’ present activities with those of three years ago.
CWT meeting and event specialists from Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Holland, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom agree that clients prefer shorter stays, one of the reasons for which being time pressures on executives and employees. Despite being shorter, there are no signs of a drop in spending on meetings and events. In fact, spending is on the increase.
“Spending in this area is considerable; normally accounting for 25-40% of the total budget for company travel,” states Todd Kramer, vice-president of Meetings and Events for EMEA at CWT. “According to our estimates, the global meeting and event market is worth 300.000 million dollars, Europe’s share being a third of this figure. In Europe, there is growing number of travel buyers directly involved in meetings and events, the figure being 50% in the States.”
In spite of this trend, Kramer maintains that one out of every two companies has little or no idea about how much is spent of meetings and events, because spending is fragmented. The meeting and event planners of a given company can belong to different departments (for instance, communication, marketing, human resources, etc.).
“In some sectors, such as the pharmaceutical industry, spending on meetings and events can be higher than that on company travel. We know that we can help our clients save up to 15% of what they spend on meetings and events by improving processes and consolidating meetings and events with their travel programme.”
The trend towards shorter meetings and events has had an impact on the choice of destination, with a preference for closer ones. According to Ricardo Ortega, director of CWT Events in Spain, “Although destinations like Barcelona, Dublin, Lisbon, Istanbul and Dubai are the most popular ones for meetings and events on a European level, all being under five hours away from the majority of European cities, in Spain destinations such as Budapest and Marrakech are also extremely popular.”
“In Europe, client preferences are very clear cut,” comments Ortega. “Our Danish clients frequently hold events in private yachts. In Italy, there is a marked trend towards culture and the arts. In France, companies like to invite their clients to art exhibitions or sporting events, organising their own function before or afterwards, and what the Spanish most appreciate in incentives is the chance to go on a non-conventional trip, different from the kind that they can book themselves at an agency, as well as the possibility to shop at the destination.”
Team-building agencies are also turning increasingly more to meeting and event specialists at CWT to obtain ideas that help them maintain the level of interactivity between participants and create a greater impact. Originality and excitement are essential ingredients of incentive trips. CWT’s experts have organised events in which participants swim in a cage surrounded by sharks, make a 2,000-metre volcano crater descent in Costa Rica, or participate in different motor sports. At the destination there is frequently a last-minute surprise.
Environmental matters also have their place in meetings and events. CWT’s meeting and event team has recently been asked to organise corporate events with an environmental theme in Scandinavia, as well as helping a number of companies structure their team-building activities so as to stress corporate social responsibility, such as setting up building schools and planting trees in remote African villages.
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