Demand in the meetings and events (M&E) sector will grow between 5 and 10 per cent in 2019, according to a forecast released by CWT Meetings & Events.
The 2019 Meetings & Events Future Trends report released today also predicts that the average size of meetings will rise in nearly every region, but organisers will face a 3.7 per cent increase in hotel rates and a 2.6 per cent rise in air fares.
Despite the cost pressure, CWT Meetings & Events says the majority of marketing departments it surveyed are expecting to receive bigger budgets in 2019, with face-to-face events becoming increasingly popular.
Strategic meetings management (SMM) will continue to gain traction outside of North America, where the practice is more mature. According to CWT Meetings & Events, SMM can cut the time spent on sourcing by 22 per cent and deliver an average 19 per cent savings on room nights.
Cindy Fisher, senior vice president and global head of CWT Meetings & Events, commented: “SMM tips the scales back in favour of clients by shifting sales towards preferred suppliers and analysing demand to work out the optimum times to secure the best venues, hotels and flights – and lock in the best prices.”
Discussing the report with members of the press, Ian Cummings, VP of Europe, Middle East and Africa at CWT Meetings & Events, said the company had seen an interesting trend of consolidating a firm’s M&E activity under the travel manager’s role.
When asked if travel managers were best placed to take on the responsibility for SMM, Cummings said: “Travel managers are clear on the value of data and how it can be used to spot savings, but M&E has a larger pool of stakeholders. It can be difficult, but those travel managers who are keen to communicate with more stakeholders will thrive.
Paul Stoddart, MD for the UK, Ireland and Benelux, added: “I think you do still need somebody with M&E experience involved, possibly reporting into the travel manager, so companies can get the best of both worlds. It has to be a combination of the departments.”
Technology will play a big part in growing demand, with rapid innovation in the space enabling greater data capture and analysis as well as more engaging experiences for attendees. CWT Meetings & Events says technology such as booking tool integration can also help organisers make savings by booking group travel.
Demand for unique venues – whether hotel and non-hotel properties – has grown in the last several years and will continue to rise in 2019. The use of unusual spaces such as treehouses, rooftops and even islands will be a key trend for the year, while less formal formats such as engaging attendees in content creation and choosing speakers who are relevant to the industry rather than the biggest celebrity of the time will also gain in popularity.
In Europe, the M&E industry remains positive despite the geopolitical challenges facing the market. Air fares are expected to rise 4.8 per cent in Western Europe, but Eastern Europe will likely see a 2.3 per cent decrease. Likewise, hotel rates will rise by 5.6 per cent in the west and fall by 1.9 per cent in the east.
Kurt Ekert, president and CEO of Carlson Wagonlit Travel, said: “The global meetings and events industry can look forward to a buoyant 2019.”