I regularly get asked by planners and suppliers, ‘what’s going on out there?’ or ‘what are you hearing?’ Since we are involved in many associations, speak to hundreds of people weekly and plan upwards of 80 events/year of our own, I can answer those questions with honest real answers.
First let’s discuss our southern neighbours. Everything I’m hearing, reading and seeing supports the estimate that US meetings business is down about 35%. This is significant by all accounts and is impacting the way we are doing business in Canada – both positively and negatively. Here in Canada, the association market is holding strong, government meetings are still happening – although they don’t want anyone to know about it, and corporate is all over the map. Some corporations are still wrestling with perception issues; some are simply waiting to the very last minute to book, and all of them that are still running meetings are cutting budgets versus last year. Across the board, there is a consensus that the Canadian meetings business is down about 15%.
It appears there is growing optimism for Q4 2009. I’m hearing about more meetings being planned and speaking for our corporate events, it’s tough to get a venue in November across most major cities in Canada right now. If you believe leading economists that in Q3 the global economy will turn the corner; our industry will likely be 6-9 months behind as budgets get approved and events get planned and executed. But don’t count out the predictions that the Canadian dollar will remain above $0.90US for the next year and with a hungry/aggressive neighbour to the south there will be deals to be had. Nobody’s crystal ball is perfect, and mine is as broken as everyone else’s, but things are not going to radically improve for another 12 months.
We, as an industry, need to be able to articulate the value of meetings and business events. There are ways to calculate a return-on-investment (ROI) of meetings – its just takes time and know-how. We have MPI Foundation Canada’s Economic Impact Study that proves how valuable we are as an industry, and M&IT’s annual market report that shows trends towards detailed spending and travel patterns.
Get familiar with these tools and use them, our future depends on it.