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Still strong, and increasingly tech-powered

Still strong, and increasingly tech-powered

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The most thorough – and much-awaited – annual barometer of our industry was back: the IBTM World Trends Watch Report by Alistair Turner & Rob Davidson takes a forensic look at our industry, across sectors, countries and types of events. The full report, which was unveiled at the last edition of IBTM World, delves deeper into wider technological issues from outside the industry such as personalisation and automation.

And the verdict? Despite ongoing economic and geopolitical instability, the future looks bright, thanks in part to the relentless march of technological innovation and its application in the meetings industry. Despite the threat of protectionism, the authors remain ‘guardedly optimistic’ about the economy. Overall predictions have been moderated, showing some clouds on the horizon, but the IMF still expects a solid 3.7% growth for 2019. It is a time for the brave: as covered in last year’s report, instability is the new normal and while ecological, political and economic risks continue to spring up around the world, global growth figures remain positive. 

Regarding sectors, the banking industry has regained its health and the mood is positive; construction has grown by 3.2% this year; the pharmaceutical sector is being disrupted by trends such as wearables and self-diagnosis but is dynamic and solid; ICT growth is increasing by 4.3% in 2018 and shows no sign of resting, stimulated by IoT, 5G, blockchain and AI; and finally, automotive is facing huge uncertainty but continues to flourish, with a 4% expansion in 2018 and 2019. 

Association meetings are strong, especially in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and the exponential growth recorded by ICCA indicates increasing maturity in the sector. Meanwhile, the trend towards more meetings but smaller and more frequent endures. Finally, the merging of ITC with pharma, banking (FinTech) and automotive has seen new communities being established and cities are positioning themselves as centres of excellence in various fields to bring these communities together. ICCA highlights the trend of ‘Beyond Bidding.’ Where historically, destinations’ role was tourism and logistics led, now they support events through their intellectual and economic capital, generating knowledge creation and transfer. 

Incentive travel is also healthy and SITE highlights that budgets and the amount of incentive travel trips being booked are both up in 2018, making the most of this great tool to build relationships between management and employees. Almost 70% of buyers said their programmes achieve business objectives but the problem of this level of activity is that the industry wrestles with supply and demand dynamics that impact on profitability.

Incentive trends in a nutshell according to SITE:

  • Two-thirds of corporate bookers of incentive travel include meetings in their incentive programmes
  • Wellness is the new golf
  • Growth in all-inclusive destinations, partly to reduce costs


How destinations are selected for incentives, according to C&IT

  • Political stability and safety (66%)
  • Value for money (65%)
  • Service quality (59%)


More profound incentives. C&IT highlights Transformational Travel, which reflects consumer travel trends and shows a move to enriching, cultural experiences, including ethical changes. And the Incentive Research Foundation’s 2018 Trends Study finds a move towards wellness: “38% of respondents include wellness/wellbeing components in their programme’. 

And for 2019, frankly, things still look good; 63% of respondents to MPI’s Meetings Outlook Report (Fall 18) showed great business confidence and as we saw, all predictions by industries and types of events are on the positive side. So much optimism… should we be worried? 

Don’t be complacent! say the authors. Despite the good news, the report highlights that with many experts concerned about an economic slowdown, the ability for the meetings industry to withstand a downturn in fortunes could be limited. Only the paranoid survive, as Andy Grove said. Our industry has always stood out for its adaptability and this skill is as vital as ever. 


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