Sustainability, mass personalisation and the roll-out of 5G are just a few of the trends that meetings arrangers need to monitor as they approach the next decade.

That’s according to CWT Meetings & Events, which this morning published its 2020 Meetings & Events Future Trends report – the company’s annual barometer that takes the pulse of a growing sector of the business travel industry.

Speaking to Buying Business Travel at a media briefing for the launch of the report, Ian Cummings, vice-president for EMEA at CWT M&E, said travel buyers at larger organisations were increasingly taking on event planning, as part of a wider shift in procurement duties. “There is a change going on,” he said. “When it comes to RFPs, procurement departments are saying ‘go to event specialists’, but internally there may be local relationships in place, and they don’t have the data”, echoing last year’s theme featured in the 2019 report.

So what do travel managers need to consider in 2020? While safety and security, unsurprisingly, top the agenda for priorities, there are other trends emerging, including the impact of meetings on the environment and local communities; mass personalisation; and the future roll-out of 5G.

CSR in focus
One of the key trends for 2020 is sustainability, from an environmental, economic, and social perspective, CWT M&E believes, and as a result many brands are wanting to be seen to be taking sustainability seriously. “There’s a drive from customers. There’s a massive focus on social responsibility in 2020,” Cummings said. “For example, in France there is the PACTE law, and there are more hotels with green credentials.”

The report also quotes Jessie States, director of the MPI Academy at Meeting Professionals International, who states: “There is a trend towards the idea that events should do more than just educate or have a business development opportunity, but also to create good for communities globally. It is more than just being an add-on, it is about the entire experience. Big brands are making a statement about what they stand for, and ultimately it is the consumer demanding it.”

Cummings said that for one of CWT M&E’s own events, leadership staff attended an event in Marrakech, and were giving various activities to choose from, one of which included quad-biking – for which carbon offsetting was put in place. And some 75 CWT M&E employees helped build a nursery, football pitch and installed solar panels in a nearby village.

Engaging content
Paul Stoddard, managing director, UK & Ireland & Benelux, meanwhile told BBT that event organisers needed to take on more feedback from delegates when planning. “Gone are the days of a linear event,” he said. “Now it is about mass personalisation. Clients also ask us to offer more choices when it comes to travel, such as choosing different airlines, or extra stays, within policy.”

MICE professionals therefore need to consider new formats, such as fireside chats, poolside morning meetings, or even sharing business plans during a hike, while the report urges “bite-sized content sessions” to engage and inspire delegates.

Technology trends
The roll-out of 5G will mean speeds of 100 times greater than 4G, so there will be more live streaming, which will be quicker, cheaper and easier than ever before, and involve greater use of holograms and AR, according to CWT M&E. The reliance on a venue’s wifi will also be less important due to 5G, meaning organisers can be more creative in the locations they use.

The 2020 Meetings & Events Future Trends report also predicts that with a rise in the number of online influencers, coupled with faster technology, some event planners may want to curate an event for a 1,000 guests, rather than 10,000, but ensure those invited are able to capture or stream the event to their audience.

Meanwhile, Cummings commented on the fact it continues to remain challenging for organisers to gain access to real-time availability for small meetings, noting there were many platforms available, but none offered widespread coverage. When asked for his views on the recent US$50 million investment from Accor, Hilton, IHG and Marriott International in Groups360, the online marketplace for meetings, which offers the GroupSync platform for simple meeting planners, he said: “It’s great four hotel groups invested in a single solution, it helps move it forward. But it just directs you to those four chains. [Planners] may want smaller and more boutique hotels. But it’s moving in the right direction.”

Brexit fears
Brexit has also played a role in the MICE sector, and Cummings said that within Europe, cancellations were “creeping up” and lead times decreasing. However, London had retained its top spot as a MICE destination in the region, with the falling value of the pound likely to be a contributing factor.

Top 10 EMEA cities

CWT’s top 10 EMEA cities for meetings and events

“Secondary cities” such as Manchester and Liverpool are also on the rise due to cheaper prices, while in France, destinations such as Nice offer rates half those of Paris, with Porto and Seville also on the up. Amsterdam was also one to watch, as it is “pushing the boundaries in terms of hotels, and had a big US flight uplift”, Cummings added.

Meanwhile, the Middle East and Africa were “in vogue again”, and Cummings pinpointed Dubai as having “fantastic transit points” and properties.

Changing tastes
Company incentives are also set to become more creative, CWT M&E argues, as “the world is getting smaller”, according to Stoddard: “It’s got to be better, more brilliant, than before,” he said. “Big brands increasingly recognise the value of experiences can be worth more than pounds.”

Another trend, related to F&B, was the rise in delegates requesting gluten-free, vegan and locally sourced products, and with conference organisers keen to minimise wastage, more events are allowing delegates to eat when they choose via grab-and-go food stations.

The report also predicts the average cost per delegate per day is set to drop next year, from US$255 in 2019 to US$229 for the EMEA region.

To view the report, click here

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