With the rest of the world relatively flat for meetings growth in 2017, American Express is predicting growth in the Asia Pacific region.

In its recently released 2017 Global Meetings and Events Forecast, American Express Meetings and Events believes there will be some growth in the sector balanced by political and economic uncertainty.

American Express Meetings and Events senior vice president and general manager, Issa Jouaneh, said while Amex was seeing growth in meetings activity across regions and client organisations, driven by a trend toward corporate consolidation of meetings spend and global expansion of managed meetings programs, from a broader perspective there was some hesitancy in the industry.

“While this sentiment has yet to have a meaningful impact, we do expect this shift may result in some slowdown in the growth we have witnessed over the last couple of years,” he said.

“Our survey respondents have indicated overarching program spend will likely be similar to 2016, but overall activity, including number of meetings or number of attendees per meeting, may see a decline.

“Across North America, organisations continue their global expansion efforts through organisational growth, as well as mergers and acquisitions. This activity drives the need for additional training and internal meetings, as organisations require internal alignment in order to be successful.

“A trend toward increased adherence to managed meetings policy continues as compliance-related reporting requirements increase across pharmaceutical and other industries. Respondents in North America predict meeting spend will be flat with less than one per cent change in budget overall.

“Throughout Europe, the focus on strategically managing meetings has risen in importance within organisations. Some of this attention is the result of globalisation, however, even within global programs, it is important for organisations to permit flexibility in local countries to match culture and compliant business practices.”

He said the Brexit issue was also creating uncertainty.

“Predictions for Asia Pacific activity are the most optimistic, with increases in a variety of meeting types indicated.

“While budgets overall are predicted to be flat or slightly up, particularly in Australia, the increased focus on managing meetings spend may be fuelling increased activity. Compliance appears to be a significant driver of the increased discipline, coupled with ongoing concerns related to meetings in China. And while the region overall is predicting growth, there are some pockets of uncertainty specific to the resources and mining industries.”


Gathering numbers

In this year’s forecast survey, American Express asked respondents to provide their predicted number of meetings per meeting type for 2017.

Respondents suggest meetings activity will vary across regions, with some regions predicting little change over the coming year and others suggesting growth or decline within certain meeting types.

For each meeting type, it appears that meeting owners are trying to find the right combination of the number of meetings held and the size of those meetings to drive the most value for their organisations.


Making adjustments

With property and other related meeting costs rising, many organisations appear to be adjusting the number and size of their meetings to stay within their budget constraints. Holding fewer meetings with more attendees or a more targeted attendee list is one option, as is using multiple local meetings to replace a larger meeting that requires significant travel.

Survey respondents in North America and Europe are conservative in their predictions for 2017, with the expected number of most meeting types either remaining flat or decreasing. Respondents in North America predict decreases in the number of their larger meetings: product launches, conferences and tradeshows, and incentives and special events.

They also predict smaller attendee sizes for several internal meeting types, including training, senior leadership and advisory board meetings.

Respondents in Europe see decreases in the numbers of most meeting types, with internal and product launches remaining the same.

These numbers reflect expert suggestions that meeting owners are taking a closer look at which meetings really need to happen and how often, staying the course that was set in 2016.

One expert suggests “companies are trying to plan meetings that are smaller and more precise with fewer attendees focusing on one topic or objective for a meeting.”

While respondents suggest that the number of meetings will decrease, they do predict increases in the size of certain internal meeting types, including senior leadership, advisory and other internal meetings.

Similarly, respondents in Central and South America suggest decreases in the number of most meeting types and the size of most meeting types. Instead, growth will be focused toward holding more sales and marketing meetings, as well as training meetings.

One expert in Central America suggests “increasing hotel rates and the rising cost of air travel” are partly the cause of reductions across meeting types and size.


Regional growth in Asia Pacific

The Asia Pacific stands out amongst the other regions as an area of meeting growth. Respondents echo those in other regions suggesting that some meeting types such as senior leadership, advisory, and incentive meetings will remain flat or decrease slightly in number.

They do, however, suggest growth in the number of sales and marketing meetings, product launches and conferences or tradeshows. Moreover, they predict that the number of attendees for most meeting types will increase.


Days per meeting

Across all regions, respondents predict that the length of meetings will remain flat with changes within all meeting types of less than half of a day. Conferences and tradeshows as well as incentives and special events continue to be the longer meeting types, with the latter meeting type at 3 to 3.5 days across all regions.

Respondents in Europe predict the most dramatic decrease of half a day in incentives and special events.

While Central and South America have seen longer meetings in previous years, respondents predict small decreases in days per meeting across all meeting types for 2017.


Budgets & Planning

Overall meeting spend within organisations is predicted to hold steady. Last year, survey respondents across all regions predicted small increases of 1.4 per cent to 2.1 per cent in their overall program budgets.

In 2017, respondents see slightly smaller increases of approximately one per cent, with the exception of the Asia Pacific, where budgets are expected to remain flat.

These minor budget adjustments fit with an emphasis on increasing value and content, without significantly increasing cost.

One meetings expert in the UK explains that companies are “looking for pretty good value with no increase at all over what they spent in the previous year.” Another expert indicates that the number one way to reduce expense is to “shift the agenda from a five-night meeting to four nights.”