AIPC Report: The Long-Term Effects of Meetings & Events
Earlier this month, the AIPC Annual Conference and 57th General Assembly ran for three days in Boston, focusing on the long-term value of meetings and events.
Jan Freitag, SVP at Smith Travel Research, said that hotel managers around the world are seeing "pretty healthy environments" across most markets. "We're seeing some supply increases in Asia and the Middle East, and it's going to be interesting to see how that's going to impact room rates and occupancies going forward," he said. "But overall, limited new supply and healthy demand increases from both the group and the transient travelers really means smooth sailing on the hotel side and hopefully bodes well for the audience."
The U.S. dollar is so strong right now, Freitag said, that many American cities are simply too expensive for international visitors. "But the flipside is true, too: Room rates in European cities are obviously a lot cheaper for the American traveler… Americans will probably be traveling more [often] abroad."
Johannes Novy, an "urbanist" and senior researcher for planning theory at the Brandenburgische Technische UniversitÃ¤t Cottbus-Senftenberg (the Technical University Berlin), spoke about the ways in which changing travel patterns are influencing "livability" in key cities and how these lessons may apply to future thinking about convention centers and their roles within their respective communities. "The big challenge is that cities have become so popular as destinations," he explained. "Visitor numbers have not only doubled but tripled in 15, 20, 25 years." As such, he continued, management and planning issues are likely to arise as resources become increasingly stretched. "You need measures to accommodate the demand and the visitors," he explained.
Such demand is being responded to by RBO (Rental By Owner) websites including Airbnb which are providing new sources of accommodation for both leisure and business travelers. Both Freitag and Novy referred to the impacts of Airbnb from alternative perspectives. Hotels may be having a good time of it now, but the sector is increasingly wary of these competitive channels while destinations appear to have mixed views. On the one hand, the RBOs provide additional room stock to a city's bid for congresses and events but equally they provide access to a low value leisure tourism economy that can impact negatively on the relationship between a city's residential neighborhood and the tourism sector. The debate, according to Novy, is already raging in Barcelona, Lisbon and Berlin over concerns of visitor saturation and increasingly low value tourism.