Despite speculation about the slowed economy’s impact on meetings, the majority of organizations are predicting growth for 2001, according to a recent survey by the Professional Convention Management Association. The survey also found that annual meeting attendance among PCMA’s member organizations increased once again in 2000 for the eighth year running.

While technology, media and telecommunications organizations are taking a hit, the rest of the economy continues to grow: The U.S. gross domestic product increased by 2 percent in the first quarter of 2001. Since a recession is defined as two consecutive quarters of downsizing GDP, worries of a recession in the immediate future are unwarranted, says PCMA.

The biggest impact on meetings will be the increasing costs of fuel and the California energy crisis, which is causing hotels to institute energy surcharges ranging from $2 to $6 per room night, according to a PCMA press release. The high cost of energy is making a dent in California’s $1.3 trillion economy, which represents one-eight of the U.S. GDP. The impact also is spilling over to other areas of the country: The energy surcharges have been implemented across North America.

"The increased costs of energy will, at least in the short term, have a negative impact on attendance at meetings," says PCMA Board Chairman James Youngblood. "Meeting managers are looking more and more to virtual meetings to avoid some travel costs." He added that meetings whose biggest growth area is in the international arena, such as medical meetings, are "less likely to be impacted by changes in the North American economy."