Here’s a surprise: Meeting planners are less concerned about food and lodging costs and getting value for their money than they were two years ago.
According to the new DestinationMAP (Meeting Assessment Program) study, conducted by RRC Associates, the number of respondents who consider those two factors “very important” in meeting site selection fell by 8 percent from the 2009 survey. (DestinationMAP is the new name for the METROPOLL survey, which has been conducted every two years since 1983.)
DestinationMAP looks at 28 site attributes and 16 potential site deterrents, but RRC Associates Research Analyst Scott Warren prefers to look at big-picture trends rather than drill down to the details. “The first thing to note is that [recently] meeting planners have become more demanding in what they expect and need out of a destination,” he says. “When we group the site-selection considerations into logistical considerations, recreational considerations, and environmental considerations (things such as a destination’s climate or green practices), increasing percentages of planners report that these considerations are ‘very important’ in site selection.”
In 2009, by contrast, all of these considerations showed declines, revealing, says Warren, “that everything except for cost considerations was less important than it previously had been.”
The 2011 results suggest that the trend is reversing.
With high jet fuel costs expected to continue, however, airfare—and airline fees—promise to keep increasing. That may account for “travel costs” remaining as important in 2011 as in 2009—when its importance increased by 9 percent over 2007.
Some site-selection considerations rose in importance in 2011 over 2009: “easy for delegates to get to” was up 18 percent; “variety of things to do” was up 12 percent; and “good restaurants” rose by 5 percent. “We were especially struck by the increasing importance of good restaurants to meeting planners,” Warren notes. “This consideration has gained in importance steadily over the past decade. Ten years ago roughly one-third of respondents identified good restaurants as ‘very important’ to site selection, while in 2011 over half of meeting planners surveyed identified good restaurants as very important.”
DestinationMAP is a national survey of meeting planner perceptions and the site-selection process. In 2011, the nearly 800 respondents were a mix of corporate planners, association planners, and third-party planners. More than half of respondents described themselves as members of “top management” and roughly one-third described themselves as members of “meeting management” in their organizations.
- DestinationMAP asks meeting planners the duration and attendance of their largest meeting in the past 12 months. Durations of meetings have remained relatively stable from 2009 to 2011, at an average of just under four days.
- Average attendance at fell from 2007 to 2009. Attendance recovered in 2011, but is not quite back to 2007 levels. (RRC did not release specific numbers.)
- Average attendance at grew from 2007 through 2009, and again from 2009 to 2011.
- A greater number of planners reported holding meetings of 300 attendees or more in Asia and Europe in 2011 over 2009. “Given Asia’s growing economic importance, this finding doesn’t come as a surprise,” Warren says. Meetings in most other international destinations were level or down in 2011 as compared to 2009.