As the economy ambles its way back—minus the occasional stumble and (god forbid) the dreaded double-dip—some industries have awakened from forced hibernation to take measure of what (if anything) is left. Not so, for the meeting sector, which spent its economic naptime correcting public misperceptions, researching the link between meetings and business success and advocating for the creation of strategic meetings management programs at companies worldwide. And while the path ahead may be rocky, for meetings and events, the signs of spring have surely arrived.
1. AIR BORN. A regional surge in business travel reflects economic recovery in (parts of) Europe. In the first six months of 2010, the number of business flights taken by European-based staff increased by 3 percent as compared to the same period in 2009, according to the AirPlus Business Travel Index. By June, 10 percent of these travelers had returned to their business-class seats, a figure last reached pre-slump at the end of 2008. In all, European companies spent 7 percent more on flights in the first half of this year than they did in the first half of 2009.
2. STEADY-TO-RISING. Nearly one-third (31 percent) of global association execs experienced a higher actual or planned attendance for their 2010 events than in 2009, according to research by IMEX and the International Congress and Convention Association, and an additional 46 percent of professionals indicated no change in delegate numbers at all. As for the future: almost one-third of associations will run more meetings in 2011, and a massive 53 percent project higher attendances.
3. BETTER BUSINESS. As for international business overall, 62 percent of industry professionals think conditions are better than a year ago, according to the August 2010 Business Barometer, although execs in the U.S. are slightly more optimistic (63 percent) than their EU peers (59 percent). The study by the MPI Foundation and American Express also shows that a majority of industry professionals (70 percent) think the future looks bright—up 1 percent from June. As of the August report, conditions were 3.1 percent better than in 2009.
4. WELCOME BACK. The industry recovery has surpassed expectations, according to the National Business Travel Association Foundation. Its research suggests that global business travel spend will reach US$896 billion this year and grow to $1.2 trillion by 2014. According to the report, the decline in business travel following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack in New York exceeded that of this recent Great Recession.
5. THE FAR EAST. The Asian meeting industry continues to explode, particularly in population-dense China and India. Nearly half (46 percent) of business travelers in Asia Pacific claim the economic environment has had no impact on their business travel plans, according to an Online Consumer Survey on Travel and Tourism by CNN International. And bucking trends in other regions, 40 percent of biz travelers fly business or first class. In China, the average number of attendees per event jumped from 135 to 200 this year, according to a study released at trade show CIBTM. One+
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