The International Congress and Convention Association revealed the results of a member survey at its annual meeting last week in Victoria, B.C., which showed optimism for the international meetings business through the end of 2008, but some to-be-expected pessimism for next year’s bottom lines.
ICCA’s 850 member organizations in more than 80 countries represent suppliers (roughly 70 percent) and professional congress organizers who specialize in handling, transporting, and accommodating international events. The online member survey was conducted twice, first in April and again in October.
In the October survey, 8.5 percent of respondents indicated that they expected a significant downturn in business for the remainder of 2008, compared to 6 percent in April. While 48 percent of the October respondents expected a slight impact from the economy, only 35 percent expected it in April. Still, as of October, a full 39 percent anticipated their organizations’ performance to be better in 2008 than 2007, a drop of less than 2 percent from the April analysis. Previous ICCA surveys have shown 2007 as a record-breaking year in all regions of the world.
Looking out to 2009, however, almost 80 percent expect a negative impact on their businesses (with 20 percent predicting a “significant impact” and 58 percent a “slight impact”). Nevertheless, almost 70 percent of respondents answered “no” when asked if they are planning cuts in their 2009 marketing budgets compared to 2008. Also, almost 78 percent do not expect to make staff cuts in 2009.
Looking at the health of international business overall, more than 60 percent of survey respondents in October expected a significant negative impact on the international meetings industry. Just over half of the respondents said there will be significant short-term negative global impact for up to 18 months, while only 35 percent felt this way in April.
The economic downturn didn’t seem to have affected the ICCA assembly itself, which drew close to 750 participants from 65 countries, attendance on par with other ICCA annual meetings, said Martin Sirk, CEO.
"Clearly, there is a great deal of concern for economic prospects in 2009 and beyond, but it is heartening to see the confidence implied by the very small numbers planning marketing or staff cuts. What is also clear from anecdotal discussions with our members is that internationalare expected to be the most resilient meetings industry sector, whilst corporate meetings are expected to be the worst affected,” Sirk said. “With ICCA being the leading provider of research tools and marketing opportunities to reach international association decision-makers, this puts our association in an excellent position to help ICCA member companies and organizations weather the challenges heading towards us all."