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February 10, 2008

Survey finds global meetings industry in optimistic mood

Meetings professionals expect healthy attendance and budget increases in the coming year,  along with an increased interest in webcasts and web-based tools, despite general pessimism over global economic performance, according to Futurewatch 2008, the market trends study for the global meetings and events planning industry.

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

Overall, meetings and events professionals expect a 19% rise 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, without displacing 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,” commented Bruce MacMillan, president and chief executive 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.”

Among its major findings, FutureWatch 2008 also found the following:

Rapid move towards globalisation was expected

FutureWatch respondents expect their industry to globalise rapidly in the coming year. Around 20% expect their organisations to extend their global reach in 2008, compared to less than 1% who see a decrease in globalisation.

What’s more, at a time when MPI is extending its own presence in new regions of 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 predicted despite worldwide economic concerns
Among its economic findings, FutureWatch found all respondents expressed concern about an economic downturn in 2008. Despite this perception, 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

This year’s 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% 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.

For the complete FutureWatch 2008 results, visit www.mpiweb.org

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