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April 16, 2008

MPI and Amex study forecasts solid 2008

According to FutureWatch 2008, the definitive market trends study for the global meetings and events planning industry, meeting professionals expect healthy attendance and budget increases in the coming year.

The sixth-annual international study, conducted by Meeting Professionals International (MPI) and sponsored by American Express (NYSE: AXP), surveyed 1,643 meeting and event professionals and suppliers from around the world, marking the largest response ever to a FutureWatch study.

The survey found that, overall, meetings and events professionals expect a 19% in attendance in 2008. The finding was matched by a prediction that interest in webcasts and other web-based tools for live meetings will also rise, but the industry doesn’t believe they will displace the strategic value of face-to-face meetings.

“FutureWatch 2008 is further evidence that there’s no substitute for the power of human connections through live interaction,” said Bruce MacMillan, president and CEO of MPI. “This year’s study showed that while meetings and events professionals are embracing technology, its greater role is in enhancing events, not replacing them.”

Other major findings include:

A rapid move towards globalisation is expected: FutureWatch respondents expect their industry to globalise rapidly in the coming year, with 20% expecting their organisations to extend their global reach in 2008, less than 1% see a decrease in globalisation. At a time when MPI is extending its own presence around the world, 14% of respondents, including 16% in Canada and 31% in Europe, said they had seen increased interest in holding meetings in the Middle East.

Budget growth is predicted despite worldwide economic concerns: Among its economic findings, FutureWatch revealed that all respondents expressed concern about an economic downturn in 2008. Despite this, corporate planners remain bullish on budget expectations, predicting a 27% rise in 2008. This may be an indication of a growing recognition of the value of meetings and events in the private sector.

Suppliers and independent planners may face talent shortages: The study found that talent shortages are roughly twice as important for suppliers and independent planners as they are for corporate and association planners, suggesting that concern over the ability to hire and retain qualified employees is gradually permeating the industry. In a related issue, less than one-fifth of meetings business is expected to be outsourced in 2008, but that total will still represent a 14 percent increase in volume.

The industry is going “green”: FutureWatch also found that interest in environmental sustainability has not bypassed the meeting planning industry. A growing number of professionals, 19% overall, list conservation and environmental concerns among the top three trends affecting their work.

The complete results from FutureWatch 2008 are available online at www.mpiweb.org or www.americanexpress.com/meetingsolutions.

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