A global study by American Express is predicting strong meetings activity in 2016.

The American Express Meetings & Events 2016 Global Meetings Forecast released in November is predicting positive economic
trends combined with the global expansion of companies will drive continued growth for the meetings industry in 2016.

Across all regions, the number of training and internal meetings is expected to experience high levels of growth as companies continue to invest in bringing their employees together for face-to-face meetings.

Following a year of added capacity, an increased focus on compliance-related concerns and a growing need to manage risk across all meeting types, meeting owners are predicted to expand their budgets next year. In turn, hotels are expected to increase capacity in key cities, but lead times remain tight, so meeting owners who are able to plan farther ahead have the best chance of securing their first choice property and dates.

Diversity continues to persist throughout the region with Indonesia and South Korea building out their infrastructures and enhancing tourism, and therefore contributing to the expected meeting activity increases within the region.

China remains a top focus for global companies due to the size of its economy and the prevalence of manufacturing; however, other locations throughout the region are emerging as appealing destinations for a wide range of meeting types.

Unlike the 2015 predictions, Australia stands out with a higher number of expected meetings than the regional average and the

largest average numbers of attendees for sales and marketing meetings globally. Further, while meeting planners last year predicted meeting spend to remain stable, meeting spend is now expected to trend upwards through 2016. Meeting planners across Asia-Pacific, with the exception of Australia, are also leaning towards shorter meetings compared to North America and mirror the length of predicted meetings in Europe.

U.S. growth
In North America, 2016 points to continued increases in all meeting types across the region, further fuelling the increased activity seen in 2015. Training and internal meetings are expected to continue to experience strong growth and rise more than any other meeting type next year.

As the number of meetings is predicted to increase, attendee levels in North America are also expected to trend upwards. As a result of recent economic growth, companies are renewing their focus on employee-centric meetings by planning a greater number of incentive meetings and special events next year.

Although respondents are optimistic about growth, the length of meetings is predicted to remain largely unchanged in 2016. While overall program spend is expected to rise, marking the largest forecasted spend increase in three years, budgets remain tightly controlled as meeting planners increase their spend per attendee, where justified.

Europe also on the rise
In Europe, survey respondents indicate continued meetings activity growth from 2015 with small upward trends expected throughout the region next year. With the number of predicted meetings expected to be stable to slightly higher, the region will continue its steady course.

Unlike last year’s forecast which predicted small regional declines, survey respondents from the United Kingdom and Germany show strong optimism across the region, expecting similar to slightly higher increases across all meeting types.

In France, predictions vary widely by meeting type, with planners most optimistic about increases in conferences and trade shows, while a small number of others predict small declines in training meetings and product launches.

Additionally, the size of meetings and events is slowly increasing for most meeting types across Europe. While doing more with less was the mantra for 2015, doing more with a little bit more is the new mantra for 2016. Compared to last year, budgets are expected to continue growing, as companies across Europe are likely to spend more on their meetings programs in 2016.

Central and South America
Central and South American respondents also expect meeting activity to increase across all meeting types, as meeting owners look to use meetings and events as a driver of revenue growth in 2016.

The positive trend that began in 2015 is expected to persist next year as a result of economic growth in some countries, global sporting events attracting greater attention to specific countries in the region, and the development of travel and meeting infrastructures across the broader region as a whole.

Attendee levels and the length of meetings in 2016 are expected to remain stable. Similar to North America, overall meeting spend is predicted to increase more in 2016 than in 2015, with a 1.4 percent rise in spending, as companies invest further in their meetings programs.

Top destinations
The forecast reveals that the top destinations for meetings remain relatively similar for 2016 as for 2015, with minor changes throughout the regions.
In the Asia Pacific, Singapore remains the number one meeting destination, while Shanghai, China and Hong Kong/Macau traded places. Beijing has climbed onto the list to the number four ranking, causing Sydney to rank one position lower and Bali to slip out of the top five.

In North America, Chicago slipped to second place this year, with Orlando taking the lead to rank as the number one meeting destination choice among meeting planners. Las Vegas, San Diego, and Atlanta continue to rank in the top five meeting destinations in North America for the third consecutive year.

In Central and South America, the demand for large city locations persists with Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and the Riviera Maya/ Cancun region in Mexico retaining the top two spots for meetings and events for the third consecutive year.

In Europe, London and Paris have retained their spots from last year’s forecast and Amsterdam has taken over Barcelona’s spot in third place.
“We’re also noticing a shift towards second-tier and smaller cities for meetings activity throughout Asia Pacific,” said American Express Meetings and Events APAC regional director, Belinda Doery.

“There is a trend towards unusual or experience-based meetings and incentives, and smaller, second-tier cities often provide a less mainstream experience. We are also seeing companies based in these second tier cities choosing to remain local more frequently, in order to minimise costs.”

Key insights
Forecast participants also provided insight into several topics that remain top of mind for 2016 meetings and events planning. Key areas of focus for 2016 include:

• Compliance Considerations – Regulatory compliance remains a critical issue for corporations across the globe with meetings operations as one area where the potential risks and penalties can be significant. Specifically, government regulators have increased their focus onindividual accountability and corporate officers’ conduct with non-compliance resulting in significant consequences for both corporations and individuals. Within the meetings and events space, the highest risk of non-compliance is typically related to meeting payments, expenses and records, handling of Personal Information (PI) and attendee selection.

• Incentive Programs and Events – Millennials continue to play a significant role in shaping the incentive travel space today. As a result, some companies have recognised the importance of engaging with these employees and have designed and executed specific programs aimed to motivate, recognise and reward millennial travellers through immersive and cultural experiences. Choice and personalisation are key themes in designing travel experiences that inspire and motivate this large segment of the workforce.

• Mobile Apps and Event Technology – In today’s digital age, meeting owners have an opportunity to capitalise on attendees’ desire for this type of technology through digital solutions and mobile applications.

The American Express Meetings & Events Forecast findings are based on a comprehensive survey, extensive meetings and events data, and in-depth interviews of meetings professionals – including planners, buyers and hotel suppliers from around the world – conducted by American Express Meetings & Events. The forecast examines predictions regarding budget, spend, the number of meetings, lead times and other meetings-specific metrics by geographic region. It also provides insight into key trends in meeting planning for 2016.