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Positive responses to a meetings industry survey of buyers and suppliers in North America suggest returning levels of confidence and rising business expectations. Over 250 senior travel executives, approximately 90 percent based in U.S. and 10 percent in Canada, contributed to the inaugural Index of Optimism undertaken in September by IMEX America. Most participants are involved in domestic as well as international markets.

A significant majority, 71 percent, of research participants in the U.S. say demand currently is growing, and that they are attracting new sources of business, 72 percent; 18 percent reporting no change. More than half, 52 percent, believe the worst of the difficulties in the market are now over; 11 percent say no change.

However, 51 percent of respondents admit there has not yet been a return to pre-downturn volumes of bookings. Almost half acknowledge that their client’s events are not growing in size or lasting longer, and there is little or no increase in spending per delegate.
Corresponding proportions within the meetings industry in Canada in all instances reflect slightly lower levels of optimism, typically in the range of five to 10 percent less.

The IMEX America Index of Optimism analysis also recognizes possible attitude change affecting wider industry issues in the U.S.
For example, a high percentage states that the sector is becoming more sustainable and responsible, 71 per cent; with 18 per cent identifying no change.

Many are now also concerned to demonstrate better value and improved ROI for events, 83 percent; with 7 per cent no change. Corresponding proportions within Canada are 51 percent, 21 percent no change.

Key indicators
Those projecting a positive outlook highlight the continuing importance of face-to-face contact, argue that meetings drive business, and suggest pent-up demand in the global market is now coming through. It has been proposed that a key indicator is the increasing difficulty experienced in securing necessary allocations of hotel rooms.

Those who feel less certain of recovery still fear a double-dip recession, and are concerned about overall negative public perceptions towards travel, as well as note excessive government interference in this sector. Some believe that today’s quieter market is set to be the new norm.

When asked to comment on the next six months, many respondents pointed towards continuing challenges, but also explained how these had prompted them to become more creative within the business and in their responses to clients.

One respondent said “our sales forecast has improved 100 percent.” Others referred to the need to hire more staff, while another voiced collective sentiment saying, “We are in a better and healthier position than we have been for a long time.”

Survey respondents
Two hundred and fifty meetings industry buyers represented 52 percent of respondents with suppliers representing 48 percent. Typical respondent job titles were president or vice-president, global sales director, national accounts director, managing director or CEO, meeting or event planner, executive administrator and group procurement director. Association executives represented around 12 percent of all buyers.

The new tradeshow for the worldwide meetings, events and incentive travel industry, IMEX America will take place October 11-13, 2011 at the Sands Expo at the Venetian/Palazzo Hotel.

The show’s strategic partner and major educational provider is MPI. It is endorsed by DMAI and Site and has an Industry Partnership with PCMA. Other supporting partners are ACTE Global, AIPC, ASAE, CIC, ECM, IAEE, JMIC, ICCA, The Venetian and The Palazzo and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

IMEX America will offer a unique model of tradeshow, new to the U.S. market. It will assure exhibitors of meeting and making business appointments on their booths with in excess of 2,000 highly qualified hosted buyers.

The majority, 80 percent, of these hosted buyers will come from North America with the balance from the rest of the world.
In addition thousands of additional U.S. buyer attendees are expected to attend from across North America. Entrance to the show and its educational program is entirely free of charge.

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