My annual predictions for the year ahead
• Convergence is the new trend for the meeting and incentive industry associations. The Global Business Travel Association and Association of Corporate Travel Executives will focus more content on meetings as the roles of meeting and travel managers merge—and in an effort to drive new membership. Site and Meeting Professionals International will co-produce education as the roles of meeting and incentive planners merge—and in an effort to drive new membership.
• Unfortunately, all those new corporate members they are trying to attract will soon be outsourced as companies continue to downsize their meeting planning departments and just about everyone over the age of 45 (oh, right, now it’s 35). The good news for the rest of us is that most companies will also finally reinstate their 401K matches in the coming year (of course, in the hope that we can quickly make enough money to retire).
• Wellness incentives will boom. In our annual survey with theResearch Foundation, 38 percent of respondents said their companies already have a wellness incentive program in place and another 12 percent said they plan to institute one in the next year. Of course, that’s in the hope that the few remaining over-35 employees will stay healthy and at our desks.
• Free technology will no longer be just for teenagers. Why pay to print and mail promotional materials if you can build a Facebook page in 10 minutes or tweet in 10 seconds?
• Meetings will be shorter, smaller, and closer. As the recent American Express Meetings & Events 2012 forecast predicted, the number of attendees per meeting will likely decrease, as will the number of days. Companies will book closer to home. And agendas will be packed, with more companies adding meetings to their incentive trips.
• All eyes will be on the BRIC nations (Brazil, Russia, India, and China). We will see more DMCs servicing these countries and more convention travel to them. India will emerge as an incentive destination for well-traveled groups, with luxury chains such as Taj, Leela Palaces, Oberoi, and now Sofitel, as well as Starwood, Jumeirah, Mandarin Oriental, and MGM planning to open in the next couple of years. And as destinations focus on attracting groups from India and China, the U.S. incentive and meetings market—that’s you—will lose importance.
• The rampant doomsday predictions leading up to the December 21, 2012, end to the Mayan calendar (oh, yes, and the world) will have a marked effect on the hotel and airline industries as individuals and even some meeting decision-makers quietly choose not to travel in the fourth quarter. Of course, no one would ever actually admit to this…but, count on it, risk management consultants are about to have a banner year.
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