CWT Meetings & Events projects 8 per cent growth for sector in 2020

CWT M&E, the global meetings and events division of CWT, says the global meetings industry is poised for an 8 per cent growth in 2020 – despite looming geopolitical and economic headwinds.

The 2020 Future Trends Report notes the protracted trade war between the US and China is creating anxiety, as is Brexit and its cascading impact on the European Union. Over in Asia, the protests in Hong Kong that started in June have put businesses on alert, while growing concern over the impact of climate change is also increasingly clouding business sentiment.

Despite these issues, there are reasons to be upbeat, according to Kurt Ekert, president and CEO at CWT.

“The need for live events is becoming more relevant than ever before,” Ekert said, with up to 30 per cent of marketing budgets expected to be spent on live events in 2020. “Face-to-face meetings are critical to establishing connections between brands and their customers, and employees and their companies, especially during times of uncertainty. Knowing how to manage risks globally while putting together an authentic and measurable experience for all participants will be key for success in this space in the coming year and beyond.”

Digitalisation is key

The report identifies digitalisation as a key trend, with event websites being created at a rapid pace — up 52 per cent year-on-year — as more customers use these sites to drive increased engagement. Mobile devices are also adding new functionality with apps allowing organisers to create a higher degree of personalisation for attendees. CWT M&E estimates the number of event apps created since 2017 has jumped 83 per cent, while the percentage of attendees downloading apps rose from 50 per cent in 2017 to 74 per cent year-to-date in 2019.

This emphasis on digitalisation is being driven by changing demographics, as millennials are poised to become the biggest group of business travellers globally from 2024 onwards. Right at their heels are the so-called centennials (born 1996 onwards), the first group that can claim to be digital natives as they have never known a world without the internet, smartphones and apps.

“This younger group of travellers is all about experience, authenticity and participation,” said Derek Sharp, senior vice president and MD of CWT Meetings & Events. “Not content to merely ‘attend’ events, millennials and centennials use technology to actively ‘participate’ in the experience — pre-event, during the event, and post-event. Organisers are responding with innovations that put a premium on the ability to personalise experiences, coupled with ways of measuring the resulting engagement.”

Experiential on the rise

The report also shows a move towards experiences that feel authentic, where travellers can immerse themselves in a destination like locals and not as high-end tourists. Hand-in-hand with this trend is the growing attraction of off the beaten track destinations versus the usual tier-one cities.

Socially and environmentally responsible incentives also rank high for 2020, fuelled by the next generation of participants who view climate change as an increasingly pressing issue. These initiatives include replanting trees and other efforts to care for the environment — and leave a lasting legacy long after an event concludes.

Read the full report here.