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Another generally positive performance by association meetings in 2013 has created the foundations for significantly stronger future growth, according to respondents to a survey carried out by IMEX and ICCA amongst the attendees from this year’s IMEX Association Day in Frankfurt.

The International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) represent specialists who organize, transport and accommodate international meetings and events. Results from its joint survey with the large meetings and incentive travel exhibition IMEX paint a positive picture for major international association meetings, despite economic pressures.

“We have been tracking and working closely with the association sector, together with ICCA, for over 10 years, and even through the economic turbulence of the past few years, the sector has remained resilient and cautiously optimistic,” said Carina Bauer, CEO, IMEX Group. “It is good to see the sector continuing this upward trajectory and beginning to display a slightly stronger confidence level. For our exhibitors and for the meetings industry as a whole, this is great news.”

Ninety-two international association hosted buyers who attended the recent IMEX tradeshow in Frankfurt responded to the survey: Over 77 percent organized or will organize meetings for more than 500 delegates in 2013, and more than 17 percent organize events for over 5,000 delegates. These numbers increased slightly compared to previous years.

Increased attendance figures
Over 32 percent of the 92 respondents reported higher attendance for their 2013 events than in previous years (4 percent more than in 2012 and 2011); 37 percent indicated no change (compared to 38 percent in 2012); 24 percent reported slight reductions (compared to 31 percent in 2012) and less than 7 percent reported a fall in numbers (compared to 3 percent in 2012).

Still tough financial pressures
When asked if the continued global economic turbulence had any negative impact on their association and/or events in 2013, almost 57 percent answered “yes.” When this question was asked in 2012, this percentage was almost 60 percent, which means the international association meetings sector was affected, but it is still showing growth — slightly more growth than in 2012.

Positive future projections
This trend is also illustrated in respondents’ projections for 2014: almost 30 percent of associations will be running more meetings in 2014 than in 2013 (compared to 22 percent in 2012) while less than 7 percent plan to organize fewer meetings (this percentage was 11 percent in 2012). Almost 47 percent are projecting higher attendances than in previous year (40 percent in 2012), compared to almost 9 percent who expect their delegate numbers to fall (10 percent in 2012).

With all of the main indices showing a year on year rise, the regular survey suggests a positive forward forecast despite continued challenging economic conditions. This trend was confirmed earlier this year with the release of the 2012 ICCA rankings for cities and countries when ICCA reported another year of continued strength in the international association meetings market.

“ICCA has been tracking international associations for half a century, so we’re absolutely convinced of the long-term dynamism of this market sector, but obviously the uncertain and volatile financial and economic environment of the last five years has had an impact on delegate numbers and sponsorship support for many association events,” said Martin Sirk, CEO, ICCA. “It’s great news to see that the sector has regained its optimism, and we anticipate that associations will become increasingly important in every destination’s meetings mix.”

The next opportunity for association meetings executives to come together for professional education under the IMEX banner will be at Association Focus on Oct. 14, taking place the day prior to IMEX America, schedule for Oct. 15-17 in Las Vegas.

Meetings industry leaders will also discuss the state of the international association meetings market during the 52nd ICCA Congress taking place Nov. 2-6 in Shanghai, China.

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