Meetings and events industry business and optimism is on the rise according to a group of North American buyers and suppliers surveyed in the latest IMEX America Index of Optimism, the IMEX Group announced today.
Conducted in Q1, the Index asked 200 respondents to describe their mood over the previous six months and covered topics such as new business, levels of optimism, use of technology, professionalism, and the expected effect of the presidential election on the meetings, events, and incentive travel industry. Of the participants 64 percent were buyers, with suppliers comprising the remaining 36 percent.
Showing ongoing business improvement, a strong 88 percent of respondents said they had attracted new sources of business in the previous 6-month period (up from just over 77 percent in the previous July 2011 IMEX America Index of Optimism).
The survey showed optimism among US buyers and suppliers to be on the rise with a little over 79 percent reporting they felt more optimistic than in the summer of 2011. Nine percent remain less optimistic, and 12 percent were not sure. Compared to July 2011, when only 66 percent felt optimistic about the future, this 13 percent increase suggests a more positive outlook has returned, and both buyers and suppliers are feeling slightly more bullish about business prospects for the remainder of 2012.
When asked whether there was evidence that large meetings and events were attracting higher or lower numbers of attendees over the past six months, just over 53 percent noted a rise in numbers – a slight, positive increase from the 50 percent indicated in the July 2011 Index. For 27 percent, there was no reported rise in delegate numbers and 20 percent remained unsure.
The survey also asked if spending per participant at these events was on the rise. Results were virtually split down the middle with 38 percent saying yes, nearly 40 percent saying no, and the remainder declaring they were not sure.
When asked the “crystal ball” question everyone wants the answer to, whether the industry had seen the worst of the market difficulties yet, results swung to more positive ground. Forty-nine percent said they felt the worst had passed. Thirty-one percent believe there is more uncertainty to come, and 20 percent can’t decide either way. These findings show less doubt and pessimism than in July 2011 when just 30 percent felt the worst had past and 34 percent felt there was more uncertainty around the corner.
PROFESSIONALISM, TECHNOLOGY & THE US PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION ENRICH FEEDBACK
Further, the IMEX America Index of Optimism also sought feedback on the importance of continued professional development and industry recognition, as well as hot technologies and the upcoming US presidential election and its potential effect on the industry.
Just over 81 percent agreed that continued work is critical to build and reinforce the professionalism of the industry, acknowledging that this helps to impress the true value of the industry upon stakeholders and other influential groups.
In comment-format, questions regarding use of social media and ‘”hot” technologies, Twitter, Facebook, smart phones, tablets, and apps continue to dominate industry professionals’ lives and habits. However, respondents emphasized their search for value rather than novelty, and only rate those technologies and devices that help them create better marketing programs and sponsorships, build stronger client relationships, or deliver a richer attendee interaction or greater convenience.
Comments also suggest that appetite for greater network bandwidth in venues, more extensive WiFi availability, and more and better mobile apps to facilitate information access and interaction, remains strong.
Further, interest in cloud-based CRM and database solutions was also expressed, and there continues to be much discussion around virtual and video conference formats and technologies – especially for smaller audiences. This said, the continuing value of face-to-face connections, networking, and relationship development created at live events was consistently reinforced by survey respondents.
Finally, with the US buzzing with presidential election news and speculation, the Index asked participants how the upcoming election is likely to affect the meetings industry. Many said not at all, although others indicated that election years typically lead to a more “wait and see” attitude on budgets and program decisions. However, some recent lengthening of lead times could help industry members get past the November 2012 bottleneck. Generally, concerns over rising fuel prices, job creation, and continued global economic instability created more concern than the specific outcome of the election. Those in the medical/healthcare and pharma sectors, however, did express some concerns about direct and potentially negative impacts based on who wins or loses the race to the oval office.
Many provided comment that no matter who wins, it’s essential to keep pushing for more understanding and pro-industry action on Capitol Hill.
Said Carina Bauer, CEO of the IMEX Group: “Last October at IMEX America, there was a tangible feeling of optimism among buyers and suppliers and our business figures reflected that. Our exit survey showed that hosted buyers placed total orders onsite of US$281 million and expected to place a further US$1.9 billion worth of orders in the 9 months afterwards. Interest in the next IMEX America is looking extremely strong with demand for booth space and for hosted buyer places all supporting the gentle upswing indicated by these findings.”