A slight decline is expected in the region’s meeting attendee numbers and expenditure for 2014, but the trend hints of a maturing market and events being held closer to home.

DANIELLE PUCETA
AMERICAN EXPRESS
MEETINGS & EVENTS
DIRECTOR, JAPA

American Express Meetings and Events (M&E) recently released the 2014 American Express Meeting and Events Global Meetings Forecast. This global research examines M&E industry trends, and predictions around meeting attendee numbers and spending for the year ahead, amongst other industry issues. Over the past few years we have seen growth predictions, albeit rather modest, in most regions with the exception of Europe which has gone through a few turbulent years economically. This year however, following two years of predicted increases, the Asia Pacific region appears to be slowing down. According to our research, we can expect a slight decline (-1.2 per cent) in the number of meetings in this region and the number of attendees per meeting (-2.4 per cent) this year. Asia Pacific is also expected to experience the largest decline among all regions in overall meetings spend per organisation (-3.6 per cent).

However, this predicted decline does not necessarily mean the industry locally is in a bad state. Scratching the surface a little will reveal some varied and logical reasons for predicted declines. Firstly, there is no doubt that the M&E industry in this region is maturing and becoming more sophisticated. Inherently, tighter controls over spending and activity are to be expected as functions mature and develop.

Secondly, our Forecast highlights an ongoing trend for meetings planners to conduct meetings closer to home, within their region, and even using their own facilities where logical. Meeting planners would typically expect to cut costs and travel time by holding meetings locally, therefore this could be one contributing factor to the predicted decrease in overall meetings spend per organisation. When it comes to actual local meeting location, our Forecast revealed that, for the second consecutive year, Shanghai ranks as the number one meeting destination choice among meeting planners in the Asia Pacific region, followed by Singapore and Sydney. Hong Kong/Macau has jumped from number seven last year to number four this year, and Bangkok/Chiang Mai comes in at number five in the rankings.

Thirdly, and once again potentially contributing to an expected decrease in costs and decline in meetings spend per organisation, we’re seeing an increased trend towards incorporating group fares in strategic meetings programmes. The usage of group air fares is certainly not new, but meetings organisers, particularly over the past two or so years, have become a lot more conscious of the cost advantages and flexibilities associated with group fares.

Lastly, the Asia Pacific region has experienced a lot more scrutiny from senior management within organisations when it comes to M&E activities. Senior executives certainly recognise the importance of face-to-face meetings – in fact our Forecast predicts a 4 per cent increase in demand for meetings throughout the Asia Pacific region – but are seeking greater visibility into M&E spending, and assurances that activity is closely monitored and aligned to company objectives. To address these concerns, we’re likely to see meeting planners in 2014 place greater emphasis on a rigorous meetings approval process, and on setting and adhering to strict guidelines that address the potentially high-risk areas of meetings supply chain such as meetings approval, payment, reporting and auditing.

Over the next year, meeting planners have an opportunity to demonstrate the value of events by continuing to look for opportunities to contain costs, through group fares and local meetings for example, and to strictly adhere to meeting guidelines in place.

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