Meetings industry stabilizing as event spaces harder to find

WORLDWIDE A mild recovery is evident in the meetings and events segment, as travel buyers say they are having a harder time finding available venues compared with six months ago.

Furthermore, three in five respondents to a survey of travel buyers by Maxvantage, an alliance formed between American Express Business Travel and Maritz Travel, say that the meetings industry is gradually improving and feel it is stable.

“Across the industry, attitudes are increasingly optimistic as corporations are starting to invest in meetings again and travel and meeting professionals begin scheduling meetings,” says Issa Jouaneh, vice president of Maxvantage and Global Meeting Solutions. “This renewed demand is making availability more challenging and is resulting in slight rate increases. By leveraging our extensive data repository to anticipate such industry dynamics, we are able to provide the insight to more acutely advise our clients through the meetings management process.”

Maxvantage’s Travel Buyers Survey, conducted in June, polled 90 respondents with direct responsibility for strategic meetings management. Respondents indicated they are beginning to see a mild recovery as more travel buyers find it increasingly difficult to find meeting room availability and more challenging to negotiate favorable rates.

“With market conditions changing, and indicators pointing to a move back toward a seller’s market, it is essential that meeting professionals stay focused and aware of current trends happening in the industry,” says Steve O’Malley, senior vice president and general manager of Maxvantage. “Over the course of the past two years, because of the buyer’s market environment, year-over-year savings has been easier to achieve. With prices firming, it’s critical to look at all parts of the meeting equation—participant  count increases, room and food and beverage rates, and firmer terms and conditions—to ensure meetings are achieving the desired return on investment and optimal savings.”

Annual hotel rate data from Maxvantage also reveal that since January the drop in hotel rates has started to level off, and in second quarter hotel rates showed signs of stabilization. Looking back, at the 2010 negotiating season, first quotes from hotels dropped from a maximum of US$226 in May 2008 to a minimum of US$134 in September 2009.

While rates for top destinations continue to drop, the decrease in hotel rates year-over-year are not as severe as the drop from 2008 to 2009.