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American Express Forecasts Moderate Industry Growth

Reports of economic and political instability have not dampened the outlook of the meetings industry, finds the 2020 Global Meetings and Events Forecast by American Express Meetings & Events (M&E), a division of American Express Global Business Travel (GBT).

According to the forecast, meeting professionals are bullish about 2020, as steady growth across all meeting types is predicted for the fifth consecutive year.

Among the report’s findings:

  • Meetings planners are approaching attendee experience with heightened enthusiasm, with respondents indicating they would prioritize experiential elements over logistics to drive better engagement.
  • Planners are integrating technology in ways that mirror how attendees interact with technology in their daily lives to create authentic event experiences.
  • Other event aspects may be compromised to help fund these impactful moments.
  • There are currently more meetings taking place than there is space available, which will create challenges for organizers and planners.
  • Meetings management policies will become increasingly robust in 2020, with compliance levels predicted to reach 85% across regions.
  • Safety, security and preferred suppliers are the components most likely to have explicit language in meetings management policies.
  • In the era of GDPR, planners are addressing growing compliance and data privacy demands in their policy updates.

“Overall, it’s inspiring to see an optimistic outlook about the meetings and events industry as we look to 2020,” says Gerardo Tejado, general manager at American Express Meetings & Events. “Meetings and events have cemented their place as a critical driver of communications, growth, and engagement for organizations of all shapes and sizes. The challenge for planners now lies in making more out of what they have—creating a seamless experience for meeting attendees, using technology for an authentic purpose, and meeting the demand for personalized experiences.”

North America

As meeting professionals in North America look ahead to a year of stable growth, they are seeing their meetings management efforts pay off. After years of promoting policy compliance, three out of four organizations have implemented formal approval processes.

North America will see a modest 1.6 percent increase in overall spend. There will still be more internal meetings than any other type of meeting, though the overall number is expected to fall from 30 percent to 25 percent, in part because of more incentive trips, which could rise to 15 percent from 11 percent.


While attendee engagement is just as important in Europe as it is elsewhere, meeting professionals face specific challenges relating to GDPR and the political instability caused by Brexit.  Planners must be mindful of “how” they deliver an event experience while remaining GDPR compliant. Overall meeting spend is predicted to increase by 2.1 percent, and cost per attendee per day is expected to increase by 1.9 percent for incentives and special events. If budgets were to increase, 30 percent of those surveyed would focus on improving the onsite experience, up 5 percent from last year.

 Asia Pacific

While total meeting spend for 2020 is predicted to rise across all regions, APAC will see the most modest increase at 1.3 percent. Planners continue to do more with less in the region, while always keeping the attendee experience in central focus. While meeting professionals indicate more varied preferences for how they would address changing budgets, such as reducing number of nights (16 percent), onsite travel staff (13 percent), and room drops (13 percent), 35 percent of respondents indicated they would improve the onsite experience if budgets were increased by 10 percent.

 Central and South America

Survey respondents in Central and South America are predicting a stable year for the meetings and events industry, and this is the only region where projected budget increases could match the expected rate increases. Central & South America are also the most optimistic about planners’ abilities to incorporate technology to enhance their meeting experience.

Meetings programs are also becoming more formalized in the region, with more than 81 percent of respondents indicating they have a formal policy, centralized staff and approval processes. Group hotel rates are expected to increase by 2.3 percent along with group air rates at 1.7 percent, but overall meeting spend will see a healthy increase of 2.6 percent, along with the number of conferences and trade shows which will increase by 6 percent.

The 2020 Global Meetings and Events Forecast by American Express Meetings & Events also contains three special sections:

  • Small Meetings: The Next Frontier of Meetings Management explores the challenges of, and emerging technology-enabled solutions for, small meetings
  • Delivering a Personalized Incentive Travel Program outlines practical advice for cultivating an experience that will make award winners feel truly valued and increase the impact of incentives investments
  • Planners Want Pain-Free Reconciliation to Paint More Robust Meeting Spend Pictures is based on a survey created in conjunction with The BTN Group and examines trends and challenges in the reconciliation and payment space for events and meetings

The 2020 Global Meetings & Events Forecast is based on a survey of more than 550 meetings and events professionals from around the world, and interviews with industry experts. Respondents represent corporations, associations, buyers and suppliers from five continents and 33 countries. The result is a statistically and globally representative picture of the 2020 meetings and events industry.

For 13 consecutive years, American Express Meetings & Events has been recognized on Meetings Net’s “CMI 25” list, an annual directory of the largest and most influential full-service meeting and incentive travel management companies focused on the US corporate meetings and incentives industry. For more info, visit: https://www.amexglobalbusinesstravel.com/meetings-and-events.


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