While 2012 brought back optimism and growth to the meetings and events industries, meeting planners are proceeding with caution into 2013 because of uncertainty with the global economy, says the American Express Meetings and Events 2013 Global Meetings Forecast.

“Across every region, meeting planners point to budget challenges and the associated shift to more local meetings as the top trends influencing their programs,” says Issa Jouaneh, global vice president, American Express Meetings & Events, New York. “Until companies can comfortably predict which direction the economy and their overall business is headed, they will likely trim their sails rather than risk overcommitting on their meeting spend as many remember the high cost of event cancellations during the last economic downturn.”

To research the 67-page trends report, American Express surveyed meeting professionals and hotel suppliers, and analyzed client activity and third-party data. The report’s findings on corporate meetings are broken down into four world regions—North America,Europe, Asia Pacific, and Central/South America. Looking ahead to 2013, here are 11 key findings related to the North American market. 

1.    The number of corporate meetings is expected to be flat in 2013, as is attendance.

2.    Meeting budgets will decline about 1 percent overall.

3.    Hotel rates will increase 4.2 percent, but there will be room for negotiation. “Hotels are expected to continue to push rates higher on first quotes in an effort to return to pre-recession figures; however, hotel survey responses indicate they do not expect to be as successful as they would like,” states the report. “Early Q1 2013 data for North America demonstrates the struggle, with much higher first quotes only delivering slight increases in the final negotiated rate.”

4.    Meeting demand is expected to decrease at resort properties (-0.9 percent) and luxury hotels (-1.8 percent), while demand will rise at mid-tier hotels (2.4 percent) and nontraditional meeting facilities (1.9 percent). Demand at lower-tier hotels will fall 1.3 percent. New supply will increase slightly.

5.    Airfares are expected to climb 3.3 percent for domestic group rates and 4.1 percent for international group rates. Airlines are not expected to increase capacity next year in order to maximize revenue per available seat mile.

6.    When asked to identify their top trends for the year ahead, meeting planners say they expect budget challenges, a shift toward local meetings, and more requests for virtual capabilities.

7.    About half of the meeting planners (49 percent) predict no change in 2013 to the difficulty in getting meetings approved. However, 34 percent say it will be slightly more difficult, and 10 percent say it will be significantly more difficult.

8.    A majority of hoteliers (61 percent) say that less than 10 percent of the meetings they host include a virtual or hybrid component, but more than a quarter (28 percent) report virtual elements with 10 percent to 20 percent of their meetings. Only 11 percent say that 20 percent to 30 percent of their meetings have a virtual component.

9.    About 52 percent of meeting planners say that the most compelling reason to offer virtual/hybrid meetings is the potential cost savings. The biggest obstacles, said 28 percent, are to effectively engage the audience and monitor participation. (Multiple responses were allowed.)

10. Forty percent of planners say they issue less than five requests for proposal per meeting, 26 percent send between five and 10, and 15 percent send between 10 and 15.

11.      According to data from the Cvent Supplier Network, the 10 cities with the most meetings activity for the one-year period that ended July 31, 2012, were (in order, beginning with the most meetings held) Orlando, Washington, D.C., Las Vegas, Miami, Chicago, San Diego, Phoenix, Atlanta, Dallas, and New Orleans.

For more information, go to the American express Meetings and Events Web site.