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Greater activity and spending predicted for European meetings and events in 2016

According to the American Express Meetings & Events 2016 Global Meetings Forecast (‘the Forecast’), 2016 will see growth in meetings activity across Europe, in terms of both spending and meeting numbers. In last year’s Forecast, the trend amongst meeting planners was ‘doing more with less’; this year, it is ‘doing more – with a little more’.

For the first time since the initial Forecast in 2010, survey respondents across all regions of the world are predicting increases to their overall programme budgets, with European respondents expecting an increase of 1.8% – representing a significant upward turn from the decline of 0.7% predicted in the region in the 2015 Forecast.  

When it comes to meeting numbers, a small upward trend for meetings activity throughout Europe is expected to continue from 2015, with more than 20% of Europe-based respondents suggesting an increase in number of meetings across every meeting type and UK respondents expressing the greatest optimism.  Respondents were asked about planned activities across sales and marketing meetings; training meetings; internal team meetings; product launches; conferences and trade shows; senior leadership and board meetings; advisory boards; and incentive or special events. The most popular meeting types are internal team meetings and training meetings, with 22.7 and 21.9 meetings respectively planned for 2016, on average, by European respondents. Planned sales and marketing meetings have increased to an average of 20.1 for the year, and conferences or trade shows to 20.2.

“As economies across Europe steadily recover, meeting planners are showing signs of optimism, and the 2016 Forecast offers some very good news. Not only are meeting numbers set to increase, but also overall meeting spend is forecast to grow, reversing the trend from 2015 when declining spend was expected,” said Issa Jouaneh, Senior Vice President and General Manager, American Express Meeting & Events. “As meetings activity increases, compliance and risk issues become even more important. Europe leads the world when it comes to having a formal meetings policy, with 71% of respondents having this in place for their entire organisation.”  

Mr. Jouaneh continued: “For American Express Meetings & Events, 2016 will be focused on helping our European customers deliver high-quality events and supporting them when it comes to risk management and duty of care. We are excited to be partnering with our customers to add value to their expanding meeting programmes.”

European hotels and group air rates still on the rise
Last year’s upward trend in European hotels and group air rates continues. Survey respondents predict slight increases in hotel rates through 2016 (1.1% in 2015 compared to 2.4% in 2016), with Benelux respondents anticipating the highest increase at 3.1%, followed by the UK at 2.6%. At the same time, however, there are expected to be fewer hotel openings globally, with Europe seeing the greatest decline – just 404 new hotels next year compared to 587 in 2015. Midscale properties will continue to be the predominant type of hotel opening in Europe, but luxury properties have closed the gap considerably: in 2016, a new luxury property is expected to open in Europe for every 2.15 midscale properties opened, compared to 1 for every 3.59 in 2015.  

London, Frankfurt and Hamburg are expected to see the greatest number of hotel openings in Europe, with London also ranked fourth-highest globally in terms of openings. However, whilst London saw 38 hotel openings in 2015, just 19 are anticipated in 2016. This slower rate of hotel openings reflects the possible saturation of this city and the high cost of this destination. Frankfurt – ranked second in Europe in terms of number of openings – reaches 10th position globally in 2016.  

When it comes to air trends, group air survey respondents point to continued increases in both airline capacity and volume across all regions. The results of the group air survey suggest modest overall group air rate increases globally, anticipated at 1.9% in 2016. When it comes to intra-regional group air rates, these are highest in Europe in 2016, at 5.5% within Western Europe and 8% within Eastern Europe.  

European destination trends
Respondents across all regions identify budget as the key consideration in choosing a meeting location. Ultimately, regardless of the intent of the meeting, the choice of venue will nearly always be influenced by the budget. The biggest factors influencing meeting locations in Europe are the budget (24%) and specific location type needed – for example, near an airport or training facility (22%).  

Top 10 European cities based on Meetings & Events activity
Based on the activity of American Express Meet­ings & Events customers, the list of top 10 European cities has remained somewhat stable, but welcomes some newcomers. Although London and Paris retained their top positions, Amsterdam has taken over Barcelona’s spot in third place, as the Spanish city has fallen to eighth position. Berlin has dropped to tenth spot, while Rome and Nice have been replaced by Copenhagen and Riga.

1. London
2. Paris
3. Amsterdam
4. Brussels
5. Frankfurt
6. Munich
7. Copenhagen
8. Barcelona
9. Riga
10.  Berlin  

European technology trends
Globally, usage of virtual or hybrid meeting solutions does not appear to be increasing: one quarter or fewer of respondents report using virtual or hybrid solutions in more than 10% of their meetings. In Europe specifically, respondents demonstrate high levels of uncertainty on whether they have a clearly defined virtual policy or strategy for deploying virtual and hybrid solutions, with 66% respectively saying they “don’t know” if they have this, and just 10% saying they do.  

However, European respondents were clear on the most compelling reasons for using virtual and hybrid solutions: to save money (30%), to reach a broader audience (27%) and to reduce travel and time out of office (27%).  

More than 60% of European respondents anticipate using mobile apps in more than 10% of meetings in 2016, with improved communications and improved engagement of attendees cited as the most compelling reasons to use mobile apps.

The Forecast findings are based on a comprehensive survey, extensive meetings and events data, and in-depth interviews of meetings professionals – including planners, buyers and hotel suppliers from around the world – conducted by American Express Meetings & Events. The Forecast examines predictions regarding budget, spend, the number of meetings, lead times and other meetings-specific metrics by geographic region. It also provides insight into key trends in meeting planning for 2016. Please note that forecasts can change due to unforeseen circumstances.

The full report can be accessed here

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