International meeting and incentive destinations suffered through major declines in group business in 2009, and the outlook is not much better for 2010, according to two recent reports.
The FutureWatch study, released by Meeting Professionals International in January, found that U.S. planners will hold 80 percent of their meetings in the United States in 2010, up from 61 percent in 2009. (Respondents included 967 planners—356 corporate, 318 independent, 263 association, and 30 government.)
And in the Incentive Industry Trends 2010 Survey recently released by the Incentive Research Foundation, 47 percent of respondents said they will switch from international to domestic destinations for their 2010 incentive programs. (Of the 103 respondents, 81 percent were U.S.-based incentive travel providers or corporate incentive travel buyers.)
On the other hand, the United Nations World Tourism Organization is taking an optimistic view of the year ahead, predicting a 3 percent to 4 percent increase in international arrivals in 2010. The prediction comes after the latest edition of the UNWTO World Tourism Barometer showed international tourism arrivals fell 4 percent in 2009. But that was actually good news, as a surprise 2 percent upswing in arrivals in the fourth quarter improved the worse result that had been expected. The UNWTO’s forecast of increased arrivals in 2010 also is due to some major upcoming international events, including Expo 2010 in Shanghai, China, in May and the FIFA World Cup in South Africa in June.
With short-term bookings becoming more common, there may still be an upturn in international group travel as well, possibly helped by a strengthening U.S. dollar.
And there are certainly international deals to be had. Hotel rates fell dramatically in 2009 in many popular destinations such as Madrid (down 19 percent), Dublin (down 17 percent), Zurich (down 17 percent), Salzburg (down 13 percent), Rome (down 13 percent), and Prague (down 15 percent).
In China, the rush by hotel companies to add properties to the world’s fastest-growing economy contributed to an oversupply that pushed the country’s average daily hotel rates down 21 percent in 2009. And even in the red-hot Middle East region, average daily rates fell 8 percent last year. Some cities that saw dramatic declines—such as Barcelona and Venice—already are seeing rate strength return in 2010, however.