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Congress market doing good!!

Congress market doing good!!

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What is probably the oldest segment of our industry is doing fine, thanks. After weathering the crisis better than any other, thanks to a more stable model, congresses are growing again. More associations, more (often more specialised) congresses, more attendees in congresses, and a true renovation of formats and technology enable this huge segment to be in a good shape, despite strong challenges, especially compliance and sponsorship.

The congress market, which weathered the crisis much better than the corporate events market, continues to represent a healthy segment and a source of considerable economic benefits for destinations and venues, as Rob Davidson points out in this year’s report, presented in ibtm world. Drivers behind this situation? First the growth in the number of potential clients: the 53rd edition of the UIA Yearbook of International Organisations includes 68,576 international associations, 547 more than the 52nd edition. We have seen in the last decade both a growth in the number of associations and a trend for associations to organise more, specialised events, resulting in a growth in the market. However, the congress market is not an easy one, with sponsoring money sometimes hard to come by and a permanent competition by the online world. There used to be a time when education and networking was only found in congresses, this time is long gone…

This good health shows in the activity of large congress centres. AIPC (International Association of Convention Centres)’s members collectively experienced 8% revenue growth in 2015, the fastest growth ever tracked by this survey, which was first conducted in 2010. The growth rate for 2016 is a still respectable 4.2%. In terms of attendance, growth was 4% in 2015, with the same rate forecast for 2016.

This should not get us to forget the challenges, such as ever stricter compliance policies which might affect pharma companies’ support of congresses, and increased difficulty to secure sponsorships. Challenges are clear, but the congress’ power as a unique education, networking and community-building tool is still undisputed, as anyone who has tried to follow an event or training session online can testify. The innovation trends seen in the congress market, which started with the meeting design concept, are very positive signs for the future of congresses in a Darwinian world: formats are being reinvented, technology facilitates learning and networking, communication has improved, and the focus on being unique professional encounters, far from the frivolous touch they may have had a few years ago, makes congresses very prepared for a promising future.

Geography-wise, the dominance of Europe as a destination for international congresses is still extremely clear, with 15 of the top-ranked 20 ICCA cities and 13 of the top-ranked 20 countries, one more than the previous year. The top 6 (Berlin, Paris, Barcelona, Vienna, London and Madrid) are all European cities.

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