The IMEX Group has released predictions for the 2012 meetings, incentive travel and events market based on the U.S. and global industry buzz from the inaugural IMEX America trade show in October, as well as post-show survey data.
1. Business is looking up - globalization is increasing. In post-show survey comments buyers indicated an uptick in business over the last 12 months - though predominantly at a conservative rate and mostly short-term focused. There is also a trend towards more - but smaller or shorter - meetings and events and slight growth in attendance at association meetings and events.
Anecdotal survey comments also suggest that interest from the corporate sector is returning and that demand for incentive travel is on the rise again. Increased globalization in terms of planning and destination choice also came through in the survey. It was apparent at IMEX America that the definition of a “new” or “emerging” destination is broadening and increasingly dependent on a given buyer’s own location and experience. One buyer’s “emerging market” will be another’s “long-time favorite” and, as globalization increases, so does buyer awareness of the full size and scope of the world market, especially outside of the U.S.
2. Value is king - doing more with less is the ‘new norm.' With continued economic pressures in many world markets, the strong push for “added value” from buyers over the next 12+ months will remain - absent of increases in most budgets or timelines. Convention centers and some hotels are leading the way with value-adds such as free wi-fi or green meeting consultancy services. Organizations are also being asked to provide as much free knowledge and education content as possible. Further, while industry growth is, of course, a very welcome development, many survey respondents noted that they are feeling the squeeze by having to do more work with fewer staff, and against ever-tightening turnaround times. This will likely not change in 2012.
3. Green supply chain analysis and ‘responsible business’ on the rise. ‘Green supply-chain analysis’ and ‘responsible business’ were growing trends identified and discussed by experts at the IMEX America Sustainability Center (a show floor area devoted to green and CSR education and best practices). Multinationals such as Proctor & Gamble and Walmart are leading the way in developing supplier rankings, and in our industry, partners are increasingly being given or offered incentives to reuse and recycle goods, products and materials. Expect to see more companies, networks and alliances emerge that make it easier for organizations to work together to achieve their green or CSR goals. Streamlining of green practices, benchmarks and certifications will also start to occur as knowledge and experience expands.
4. Social Media continues its meteoric rise. In post-IMEX America surveys, 87.5% of hosted buyers reported using LinkedIn for business, with Facebook at 70.8%, Twitter at 50%, and YouTube at 22.4%. Perhaps most importantly, 42.5% agreed or strongly agreed that the use of social media is helping them generate business. Buyers also reported a 50%+ increase in usage of social media in the past six months.
5. Education is hot and technology is fanning the flames. One of the biggest trends - especially among associations - is the need to capture and leverage education content both during and after live events to extend the reach and benefit to attendees and members. Driven by a never-ending surge of Internet, smartphone and tablet use there has been a breathtaking and widespread desire for high quality, easily accessible knowledge-sharing and education ‘on demand.’ This shift has meant that many in the industry have become both publishers and education providers - particularly in the social media realm. This trend will only continue to grow. Also expect to see meetings and events industry education being delivered in increasingly entertaining, interactive and diverse ways, including an increasing cross-over of gaming technology or “gamification.”
6. Quantifying meetings market impact is a must. Another trend crucial to the long-term health and success of the meetings industry is the ability to quantify and transparently communicate its economic value to a given country, region or city. The U.S. led the way with its 2009 Economic Impact Study. Mexico recently announced results of its own. Stay tuned for many more destinations to announce their intention to conduct similar research studies which, in turn, will become increasingly important tools for political advocacy.