Here I am again with the second part of the speech about nowadays trends in the meetings industry held by Rob Davidson at the Vilnius-based exhibition Convene.

The incentive market

Incentive budgets overall have increased, but not by as much as last year. Cuba leads the list of emerging incentive travel destinations; it moved up from third place on last year’s list, followed by (in order) Panama, Costa Rica, Colombia and Iceland. Indian companies prefer Europe or Dubai, Singapore flies off mostly to Europe whilst Australians choose Tahiti, Samoa, Fiji and the Cook Islands – and display growing interest in the US.

European demand for meetings and events has grown in 2016, but companies are being very careful about how much they spend, organizing more intra-European events. On the sellers’ side, limited availability means that venues are increasingly pressing clients to confirm bookings quickly, because they are confident of selling the space. Terror incidents have pushed security to the top of meeting planners’ agendas, even if, according to UIA latest rankings, Belgium and France (the two European countries most affected by terror) still attain respectively 3rd and 5th place.

The region shows ongoing infrastructural development – for example, Rome’s latest convention centre opened in autumn 2016, located in Eur – alongside new destination marketing organisations, such as the Lublin & Region Convention Bureau in Poland.

The US

The US economic recovery continues to be reflected in that country’s meetings industry. The tighter availability of accommodation for events has created a sellers’ market – rates going up by between 3 and 6 per cent. But also stronger-than-expected group size increases in 2016 (+10 percent, year-on-year).

Most recent hotel construction in the US has been in lower-tier categories, which are aimed at transient business and leisure travellers. On average, hotels built over the past six years have 24 percent less meeting space than those built between 2000 and 2009.

Budgets are rising – but many planners say that the increases are insufficient to enable then to meet growing expectations. So planners are adopting a number of strategies, such as booking repeat programmes, using second-tier cities, changing the timing of events to days that are in less demand.

Asia

Asia is emerging as a dynamic, well-balanced meetings market, with both demand and supply growing steadily. Demand is growing particularly fast in China, in spite of its slower economic growth, and is spreading beyond Beijing and Shanghai, but an increased focus on transparency means that companies are feeling more pressure to show that they are buying responsibly and trying to control meeting costs.

Intra-Asia Pacific business events account for the largest market share, but Asian meeting planners are becoming more adventurous in their destination choices, helped by the region’s strong growth in airline capacity.

Here too the industry benefits from new infrastructural developments: for example, the ICC in Sydney’s Darling Harbour.

Latin America

Major political and economic problems, particularly in Brazil and Venezuela, have led to softened demand for business events in Latin America, but Latin America’s appeal as an international conference destination remains undiminished. Companies are trying to reduce their meeting costs, by holding meetings locally.

Brazil’s hosting of the World Cup and the Olympic Games has created a solid infrastructure that is expected to create a surplus in supply and lead to lower prices. The US and Cuba formally re-established diplomatic relations one year ago: Cuba will receive a boost to its business events industry from the decision of the US Department of Transportation to give eight airlines approval to launch non-stop flights from ten airports in the US to Havana.

Bogota, Colombia, is rising fast as a meetings destination. The city has undergone a revitalisation in past years with an assortment of hotels and meetings venues recently opened or coming soon: for example, the new 700,000 square feet Agora Convention Centre, due for completion in April 2017.

The Middle East

The region’s flagship destination, Dubai, has benefited from rapid expansion in air travel capacity – up 14.6 percent in the first five months of 2016. Emirates operates 126 flights weekly from the United Arab Emirates to the UK. Infrastructure is rapidly growing: 80 percent of the region’s infrastructure is less than two decades old. New venues opened in 2016: Dubai Opera, Dubai Parks and Resorts, and IMG Worlds of Adventure. The Oman Convention & Exhibition Centre (OCEC) also opened its doors, and new hotels too: Starwood is among the fastest-growing chains, while Carlson Rezidor, Hilton and Mövenpick have been active too.

Africa

It’s a mixed economic picture. Insecurity and political instability afflict the North, while growth has slowed in sub-Saharan oil-producing nations such as Nigeria and Angola, but demand in most countries is firmly on the rise. Africa’s airlines are expanding their networks in response to the intensifying demand

Here too we appreciate new infrastructural developments: for example, the Centre International de Conférences d’Alger (CICA) is North Africa’s newest and largest venue, or Cape Town’s new Century City Conference Centre.

Next week, in the final part of this survey, I will come with an outlook for 2017.

(2 – to be continued)

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