1. Superstorm Sandy
Sandy brought much of the Eastern Seaboard to a standstill when it made landfall the evening of October 29. Just the next day, 12,000 flights were canceled, according to The Wall Street Journal. The impact extended to meetings canceled from Boston to Washington, D.C./Virginia and points south. The Global Business Travel Association predicted that about 514,000 trips would be canceled and $606 million in travel spending lost as a result of storm-related cancellations, causing the 11 states in the path of the storm to suffer an average business travel spending loss as high as $58 million per day. Some analysts project that the revenue impact will be as damaging for New York City hotels as the drop right after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Darkened city streets below the Chrysler Building

2. Costa Concordia Disaster

The world watched in horror the tragedy of the Costa Concordia, which struck rock and capsized off the coast of Isola del Giglio in Italy on January 13, killing 32 people. Cruise Lines International Association has since announced a number of new safety policies for its members, including mandating that the required emergency drill take place prior to departure; having the number of life jackets on board exceed the number of passengers; and a new Nationality of Passengers policy, which prescribes that the nationality of each passenger on board be recorded and readily available in a rescue situation. The incident also shed light on the practice of “sail-pasts” close to land, resulting in some cruise lines relieving their captains from duty.

3. GSA Scandal

Once again, excesses at meetings made national headlines, with the exposure of the General Services Administration’s 2010 Western Regions Conference, a five-day, 300-attendee training conference held at the M Resort Spa and Casino in Henderson, Nev. The meeting cost the GSA $822,751, with a food-and-beverage bill that exceeded per diems, questionable expenses such as mementos for attendees ($6,325 on commemorative coins), clothing for GSA employees, and tuxedo rentals. In response, the GSA underwent a review of all meetings and travel for the remainder of fiscal year 2012, canceling 35 meetings. Martha Johnson, the head of the GSA, resigned after firing two of the agency’s senior leaders and placing four conference organizers on administrative leave.

Poolside at the M Resort outside Las Vegas

4. Industry Cheers Election Results

Election Day results drew positive comments from the travel industry, which, in the past four years, has had Washington’s ear more than ever before. “As a bipartisan industry that saw many travel supporters elected yesterday, we congratulate President Obama on a second term and look forward to advancing policies that will grow the economy and create jobs by increasing travel to and within the United States,” said Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association. This year, U.S. Travel brought its “Vote Travel” campaign to both political conventions, launched a new effort to raise awareness in Congress about the importance of meetings and incentive travel to the economy, and began the first-ever coordinated tourism marketing campaign to attract visitors from all over the world to the U.S.

5. Hotel Fees Skyrocket

Just as airline fees have had the industry up in arms, hotel fees took center stage when it was predicted they would hit a record $1.95 billion this year. This prompted a letter from three consumer advocates, including Kevin Mitchell of the Business Travel Coalition, to the Federal Trade Commission, asking for an investigation of a practice known as "drip-pricing," a technique in which companies (hotels) advertise only part of a product's price and reveal other charges later as the customer goes through the buying process. (It also prompted a hilarious "Saturday Night Live" skit of a front desk clerk rattling off a litany of ridiculous fees to a guest checking out.)

6. Hotel Seller's Market

Forget the fact that the overall economy remains stagnant. Hotel demand is expected to grow 1.8 percent in 2012, boosting occupancy levels to 60.9 percent, the highest since 2007, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers. Rates will increase by 5.1 percent, driving a RevPAR (revenue per available room) increase of 6.5 percent. And 2012 profits are expected to increase 12.7 percent at the U.S. properties participating in PKF Consulting’s latest Trends in the Hotel Industry survey. 
 

An article from our October issue

7. Mobile Meeting Apps Everywhere

A February 2012 Mashable article estimated that America’s new “app economy” has created about 466,000 jobs in the United States since 2007. (That number was zero just five years ago, before the iPhone was introduced.) According to Thorben Grosser, author of the events and marketing management blog, we’re just at the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the growth of apps that will be developed for events; he expects 10 percent to 15 percent of U.S. events with more than 100 attendees in the U.S. to have an app. You do the math.

For more, check out our upcoming free webinar on November 14 at 2 p.m. EST, “Events Going Mobile: How to Keep Up With technology That is Changing the  Event Industry,” featuring Kevin Long, director of marketing at CrowdCompass, and Courtney Young, digital and social media specialist for the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare. 


8. Hosted-Buyer Trade Shows Dominate

The hosted-buyer model, which has made IMEX so successful and EIBTM before that, has spread to other industry trade shows, including Meeting Professionals International, Professional Convention Management Association, Religious Conference Management Association, and our own Pharmaceutical Meeting Management Forums (co-produced by our sister magazine Medical Meetings). This year’s IMEX America, held October 9-11 in Las Vegas, drew a record numbers of hosted buyers—2,400—up 20 percent from its inaugural event last year.

9. A New Definition for Strategic Meetings Management

Both Meeting Professionals International and the Global Business Travel Association are hammering out—together, at times—a new definition of strategic meetings management. One thing is certain: The original, official definition focused mostly on procurement and financial issues, but the new view will include attendee engagement, attendee ROI, and event ROI. Said Linda McNairy, head of the GBTA global meetings task force, “While previously SMM was led by travel and meetings management, we now see sales and marketing organizations as an emerging audience, and there’s an increased sophistication of understanding coming from procurement, finance, technology, and other key stakeholder groups.” Most recently, at an MPI–sponsored “co-creation” session at IMEX America in October, a group of 20 SMM professionals gathered to discuss the future vision and definition of SMM.

Active Network/StarCite's Linda McNairy, head of GBTA's global meetings task force

10. Green Meeting Standards Released

While the February 16 release of the APEX/ASTM green meeting standards might not have made headlines outside the industry, it was nonetheless a tremendous accomplishment involving hundreds of planners, suppliers, and sustainability experts from across nine time zones. The standards, the first of their kind for meetings, are now available for purchase in seven of the nine established industry sectors: audiovisual, communication and marketing materials, destinations, exhibits, food and beverage, on-site office, and transportation. To come are accommodations and meeting venues. According to Carla Falco, an ASTM spokesperson, 324 copies of the standards compilation have been sold since the release.