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ITTFA Comment on… Meetings industry shows global growth

One sector of the travel business that shows every sign of continued growth is the meetings industry, represented by ITTFA member EIBTM with an annual exhibition in Barcelona.

Associations and companies of all kinds are planning more meetings now that business has gone global, and many countries are investing in state-of-the-art meetings facilities. The meetings industry used to be dominated by Americans and Europeans but is now truly global, with China and India emerging as key source markets.

EIBTM 2006, held last November, achieved record results reflecting the strong performance of the meetings industry. Total attendance was 6,176 including 2,792 carefully vetted hosted buyers, who fulfilled 98% of their 34,000 pre-scheduled appointments. Preparing to hold its 20th show in Barcelona from November 27-29 this year, EIBTM is enjoying a renaissance.

The Industry Trends and Market Share Report issued at EIBTM makes interesting reading. It shows that European cities continue to perform well as meetings destinations with seven out of the world’s ten most popular venues – Vienna, Barcelona, Berlin, Paris, Amsterdam, Budapest and Stockholm.

Research among meetings planners shows that Spain is the most popular destination, with France and Italy scoring highly and the US, South Africa and Thailand being the favoured choices for long-haul.

China and India are tipped as future market leaders, with China’s stated aim to have 120 world-class conference and exhibition centres by 2020 becoming a reality. Last year French group Accor launched China’s newest conference centre, in Xian.

The Hyderabad International Convention Centre, opened in 2006, is India’s largest and first purpose-built convention facility, also under Accor management. But India is held back by a shortage of quality hotels.

Paul Kennedy is well-placed to comment on global meetings trends, as group exhibition director for Reed Travel Exhibition’s global portfolio of Meeting and Incentive Events. These include EIBTM; AIME in Australia; CIBTM in China; the ICCA Exhibition in association with the ICCA Congress; and GIBTM, to be held in Abu Dhabi for the first time in April 2008.

“We are seeing not just growth in mature markets, but growth in emerging markets such as China which ran the largest incentive trip in the world last year with 20,000 delegates going to Australia,” he says.

“We are seeing a growth in professional bodies in many emerging countries – especially in science, medicine and industry – and this boosts attendance at association meetings. ”

“More destinations are becoming accessible with better flight connections and quality infrastructure, while retaining their own cultures. Even within Europe there are more meetings destinations, with Eastern Europe currently being ‘hot’.”

Another trend is corporate social responsibility (CSR), with the Industry Trends report highlighting that more meetings planners are choosing venues based on their environmental credentials. But the possibility that some organisations will cut down travel for environmental reasons also has to be faced.

“CSR is on the radar and many organisations want to make their meetings green, but I don’t think this will put a brake on demand for meetings,” says Kennedy.

EIBTM is a member of ITTFA, International Tourism Trade Fairs Association.

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