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American Express Meetings & Events forecasts steady growth for 2019, as part of industry’s ‘new normal’

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A decade after the 2008 global economic recession, the meetings industry has bounced back and settled into a new normal of steady and stable growth according to the 2019 Global Meetings and Events Forecast by American Express Meetings & Events (M&E), a division of American Express Global Business Travel (GBT).

In 2019, global meetings activity is expected to grow along with small increases in budget allocation for meetings and events. Consolidation across the industry and the rise of disruptive suppliers creates an environment where meeting planners feel more pressure but also have more choice. This dynamic allows the industry to collectively tackle long-term challenges, such as live inventory for small and simple meetings, and increased opportunities for attendee engagement. Regional forecasts are also optimistic, reflecting overall industry sentiment.

Surveyed planners agreed that the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is impacting the industry far beyond Europe where the regulation was developed. As emerging technologies such as virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and facial recognition transform meetings and events and create more data, compliance and privacy concerns will only grow in importance. These technologies offer attendees what they’re becoming accustomed to in their daily lives, making meetings more immersive and engaging.

“2019 will be a growth year for the meetings industry, with activity expected to increase across all meeting types and regions. The challenge before planners is mastering this volume, while working with the reality of expenses increasing at a higher rate than meetings budgets. Strategic meetings built around defined goals that prioritise the attendee experience and embrace technology will continue to elevate meetings as a business tool despite these challenges,” said Issa Jouaneh, senior vice president and general manager, American Express Meetings & Events.

Asia Pacific

Planners in APAC are striving to do more with less in the region. Growth is predicted, and while costs are balanced for now, they are rising faster than corporate meetings budgets. This creates pressure for ROI. As a result, one quarter of planners across the region are choosing second-tier destinations to defray costs, up from only three per cent the previous year. Interestingly, priorities for per-attendee spend vary greatly across the region: Companies in Japan spend most on incentives, in China the priority is senior leadership meetings, while in Australia, product launches receive the most attention.

North America

In North America, planners are managing competing demands: they need to improve the attendee experience while working within budgetary constraints. The region will see small, but material, increases in number of meetings, attendees, meeting length, and cost per attendee – a hallmark of the industry’s new normal. Meeting budgets are expected to increase by 0.8 per cent despite increasing hotel rates (2.4 per cent) and lower commissions, which two thirds of planners cite as the main consequence of hotel consolidation. Doing more with less is the persistent goal of the meeting planner in this region, with 33 per cent of those surveyed reporting they would elevate content first if corporate meetings budgets increased.


Meeting planners in Europe are learning to navigate the new normal with high expectations and an expanding scope. Activity across meeting types is increasing, especially in Germany and Spain, which lead the way in Europe. Both countries will see increases in number of meetings and number of attendees for product launches and customer advisory board meetings.  Similar to North America, modest growth in budgets (0.7 per cent) is not expected to keep up with rising hotel rates (1.6 per cent).

Central & South America

Rising local and international activity signals a growing region, and planners in Central & South America are employing technology to keep pace with demand. Although face-to-face interactions maintain cultural significance, virtual meetings are a valuable option for budget-conscious companies, with 76 per cent of planners anticipating the use of virtual meeting technology. Still, Latin American destinations like Rio de Janeiro, Cancun/Riviera Maya, and Mexico City continue to climb as top meeting spots internationally. Conferences and tradeshows are showing interest in Brazil especially, and are likely to take advantage of facilities built for recent global sporting events to attract attendees to new destinations.

The eighth annual Global Meetings Industry Forecast takes a new format for 2019, while continuing to deliver comprehensive data relevant to all those within the industry. New infographics in each section summarise key data points and trends from the global survey of meetings professionals and suppliers, industry data, and in-depth interviews with planners and buyers, meeting, air, and ground suppliers worldwide. The forecast, conducted by American Express Meetings & Events, examines budgets, spend, the number of meetings, and other industry-specific metrics by geographic region.

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