February 2013

2013 Meetings Focus Trends Survey

by Tyler Davidson

More than 600 planners completed our annual Meetings Focus Trends Survey this year, revealing that prices continue to cause consternation and the stubbornly sluggish economy tops their list of threats to the meetings industry.

Expert Opinions
Two hospitality industry experts were interviewed for this article: Bjorn Hanson, dean of the Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism and Sports; and Bobby Bowers, senior vice president of operations for consultancy Smith Travel Research.

In a nutshell, both experts believe the greatly anticipated recovery of the hospitality industry is under way, but that success fluctuated greatly depending on the specific market. Demand, even though relatively low, is outpacing supply at least for the moment in many top-tier destinations, which in some cases is due to anemic growth in the hotel pipeline over the past few years.

What will be your biggest challenge when planning meetings in the coming year? Rate-of-change (2011 vs. 2012)
Total % Assoc. % Corp. % Gov. % Ind. % Total % Assoc. % Corp. % Gov. % Ind. %
Lower budget 29.5 16.1 36.5 60.0 32.0 -5.3 -5.9 -4.4 2.6 -2.8
Declining attendance 19.2 29.0 10.3 10.0 19.9 1.2 1.6 -0.1 -6.4 2.2
Decreasing staff 3.6 4.5 3.0 6.7 2.8 NA NA NA 6.7 2.8
Increasing costs (hotels, suppliers, etc.) 38.2 44.6 36.5 13.3 36.5 1.1 2.0 -0.7 -4.7 0.3
More transportation difficulties 1.3 0.4 2.6 0.0 1.1 -0.6 -0.4 -0.4 -1.6 -0.6
Other 8.2 5.4 11.2 10.0 7.7 0.0 -1.8 2.6 3.4 -1.9


What do you believe is the biggest threat to the meetings industry? Rate-of-change (2011 vs. 2012)
Total % Assoc. % Corp. % Gov. % Ind. % Total % Assoc. % Corp. % Gov. % Ind. %
The economy 59.3 59.9 62.1 58.6 55.2 -10.4 -14.6 -9.9 -10.2 -6.9
Fuel prices 3.6 4.5 1.7 0.0 5.5 1.9 2.8 0.2 -1.6 3.4
Airline issues (fares, lift, service, etc.) 9.2 7.7 9.9 0.0 11.6 2.2 2.6 2.5 -4.9 2.8
Virtual meetings 9.5 10.8 8.2 3.4 10.5 -0.6 3.2 -1.9 -4.7 -2.5
Perceived value of profession 13.4 12.2 15.1 24.1 11.0 5.2 3.2 8.7 15.9 1.4
Perceived value of meetings, ROI 0.9 0.9 0.4 0.0 1.7 NA NA NA NA NA
Government regulations 1.2 1.4 1.3 6.9 0.0 NA NA NA NA NA
Low budget/funds 0.3 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.1 NA NA NA NA NA
Other 2.6 2.7 1.3 6.9 3.3 -0.6 0.6 -1.3 -1.3 -0.9

“About 40 percent of what’s under construction is in those [top 10 markets], and a lot of the other parts of the country are not going to see a lot of it,” Bowers says. “We think demand growth will be slower, and some of that has to do with the fact that we had a pretty good growth rate in 2012. It really depends on the market, because it’s really a street-corner business.”

Bowers points to San Francisco and New York being particularly strong in 2012, and looks for their boom to continue in 2013. Planners can expect to see bargains in major metros such as Atlanta and Dallas, which saw massive room growth in 2008 and 2009; Phoenix and Washington, D.C. According to Bowers, Nashville, which is opening a huge convention center with a new Omni hotel next to it, could also be a bargain. In general, Midwestern metros such as Detroit, Cincinnati and Kansas City may also be value leaders.

Hanson believes that the slow rate in supply growth will be eclipsed slightly by a slightly better growth in demand in 2013.


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