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January 21, 2009

FutureWatch study reveals meetings and events industry will adapt to changes in 2009

In partnership with American Express, Meeting Professionals International (MPI) recently released the initial executive summary of FutureWatch 2009 on the website www.mpiweb.org.

A forwardlooking survey of its worldwide membership, FutureWatch focuses on the trends that will affect the meetings and events industry in the next 12 months. This year’s survey had record participation with more than 2,700 participants. Full survey results will be available at a presentation during MPI’s 2009 MeetDifferent conference in Atlanta from 7-10 February.

According to this year’s results, the meeting industry will sharpen its focus and streamline its activities, when faced with a tough global market. The economic effect on the industry is not quite as severe as first anticipated. Meeting attendance per meeting is expected to increase by 3% in EMEA (Europe, Middle East, and Africa) and 9% in Canada, but decline by 5% in the US.

“After three strong years, the global meetings and events industry is coming to grips with a major paradigm shift and the FutureWatch data reveals how acute the expectations are for change,” said Bruce MacMillan, president and chief executive of MPI.

“Through initiatives like our Global Knowledge Plan, our objective is not only to ensure our members survive the shift, but also to find ways to thrive as the industry retrenches in an ebbing economic cycle.”

MPI released the following highlights from the preliminary FutureWatch findings:

In 2009, meeting and event budgets are expected to fall by 6%.
Last year’s report predicted that budgets would rise 22.6%. In fact, 17% of corporate meeting planners and 12% of association meeting planners predict some level of budget reductions in the upcoming year. Nevertheless, government meeting planners generally expect fewer budget reductions, explaining that the private sector does not usually have an effect on the necessity of their meetings.

Planners and suppliers agree that an increase in creativity and innovation will be a necessary and invaluable tool in 2009.
Planners and suppliers expect new standards and practices to emerge, which will make the industry more efficient and effective for the long term. While client-side planners foresee a 9% drop in volume, independent meeting management professionals expect only a marginal reduction of 0.5%.

11% of meeting professionals expect an increase in the use of technology to access meetings and content remotely, in order to help lower overall costs.
The technology, which more professionals plan to use is “on-site” related.

Face-to-face meetings are still considered to have the highest return of all marketing tools.
A greater significance is now being placed upon planners worldwide to provide the value of the proposed meetings and events. Some 74% of organisations holding meetings and events measure return on investment (ROI) . Additionally, the primary measure of ROI is the satisfaction of the meeting attendees.

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