Survey finds confidence among meetings professionals despite negative speculation

 NEW YORK, NY, September 10, 2019 – Reports of economic and political instability have not dampened the outlook of the meetings industry, finds the 2020 Global Meetings and Events Forecast by American Express Meetings & Events (M&E), a division of American Express Global Business Travel (GBT). According to the Forecast, meeting professionals are bullish about 2020, as steady growth across all meeting types is predicted for the fifth consecutive year.

Among the report’s findings:

  • Meetings planners are approaching attendee experience with heightened enthusiasm, with respondents indicating they would prioritize experiential elements over logistics to drive better engagement.
  • Planners are integrating technology in ways that mirror how attendees interact with technology in their daily lives to create authentic event experiences.
  • Other event aspects may be compromised to help fund these impactful moments.
  • There are currently more meetings taking place than there is space available, which will create challenges for organizers and planners.
  • Meetings management policies will become increasingly robust in 2020, with compliance levels predicted to reach 85% across regions.
  • Safety, security and preferred suppliers are the components most likely to have explicit language in meetings management policies.
  • In the era of GDPR, planners are addressing growing compliance and data privacy demands in their policy updates.

“Overall, it’s inspiring to see an optimistic outlook about the meetings and events industry as we look to 2020. Meetings and events have cemented their place as a critical driver of communications, growth, and engagement for organizations of all shapes and sizes,” said Gerardo Tejado, General Manager at American Express Meetings & Events. “The challenge for planners now lies in making more out of what they have—creating a seamless experience for meeting attendees, using technology for an authentic purpose, and meeting the demand for personalized experiences.”

North America: Hard Work Is Paying Off

As meeting professionals in North America look ahead to a year of stable growth, they are seeing their meetings management efforts pay off. After years of promoting policy compliance, three out of four organizations have implemented formal approval processes.

North America will see a modest 1.6% increase in overall spend. There will still be more internal meetings than any other type of meeting, though the overall number is expected to fall from 30% to 25%, in part because of more incentive trips, which could rise to 15% from 11%.

 Europe: Experience is “Almost” Everything

While attendee engagement is just as important in Europe as it is elsewhere, meeting professionals face specific challenges relating to GDPR and the political instability caused by Brexit.  Planners must be mindful of “how” they deliver an event experience while remaining GDPR compliant. Overall meeting spend is predicted to increase by 2.1%, and cost per attendee per day is expected to increase by 1.9% for incentives and special events. If budgets were to increase, 30% of those surveyed would focus on improving the onsite experience, up 5% from last year.

 Asia Pacific: The Juggling Act

While total meeting spend for 2020 is predicted to rise across all regions, APAC will see the most modest increase at 1.3%. Planners continue to do more with less in the region, while always keeping the attendee experience in central focus. While meeting professionals indicate more varied preferences for how they would address changing budgets, such as reducing number of nights (16%), onsite travel staff (13%), and room drops (13%), 35% of respondents indicated they would improve the onsite experience if budgets were increased by 10%.

 Central and South America: Ready to Embrace Meetings Technology

Survey respondents in Central and South America are predicting a stable year for the meetings and events industry, and this is the only region where projected budget increases could match the expected rate increases. Central & South America are also the most optimistic about planners’ abilities to incorporate technology to enhance their meeting experience.

Meetings programs are also becoming more formalized in the region, with more than 81% of respondents indicating they have a formal policy, centralized staff and approval processes. Group hotel rates are expected to increase by 2.3% along with group air rates at 1.7%, but overall meeting spend will see a healthy increase of 2.6%, along with the number of conferences and trade shows which will increase by 6%.


Below is a high-level snapshot of the key 2020 predictions based on a survey of 550 meeting professionals:

Overall Number of Meetings

2019 vs. 2020

  North America Europe Central/S. America Asia Pacific
Internal Team Meeting/Training +2.09% +1.00% +1.51% +1.68%
Product Launch (Internal/External) +2.41% +1.72% +2.29% +1.87%
Conference/Tradeshow +1.65% +1.23% +1.75% +2.00%
Senior Leadership Meeting/Board Meeting +1.65% +1.10% +1.59% +1.47%
Client/Customer Advisory Board +2.41% +1.80% +1.44% +2.28%
Incentive/Special Event +2.54% +1.79% +1.65% +0.98%


Overall Meetings Spend within Organizations

2019 vs. 2020

North America Europe Central/

S. America

Asia Pacific
+1.6% +2.1% +2.6% +1.3%


Attention on the Attendee Experience Instead of Logistics

  North America Europe Central/

S. America

Asia Pacific
Logistics 45.5% 44% 41% 39%
Experience 54.5% 56% 59% 61%


Optimism about Ability to Incorporate Tech to Enhance the Meetings Experience

North America Europe Central/

S. America

Asia Pacific
59% 53% 82% 46%


The 2020 Global Meetings and Events Forecast by American Express Meetings & Events also contains three special sections:

  • Small Meetings: The Next Frontier of Meetings Management explores the challenges of, and emerging technology-enabled solutions for, small meetings
  • Delivering a Personalized Incentive Travel Program outlines practical advice for cultivating an experience that will make award winners feel truly valued and increase the impact of incentives investments
  • Planners Want Pain-Free Reconciliation to Paint More Robust Meeting Spend Pictures is based on a survey created in conjunction with The BTN Group and examines trends and challenges in the reconciliation and payment space for events and meetings

The 2020 Global Meetings & Events Forecast is based on a survey of more than 550 meetings and events professionals from around the world, and interviews with industry experts. Respondents represent corporations, associations, buyers and suppliers from five continents and 33 countries. The result is a statistically and globally representative picture of the 2020 meetings and events industry.

Click here to download the full report and access more content about the 2020 Global Meetings & Events Forecast.

 About American Express Meetings & Events

American Express Meetings & Events, a division of American Express Global Business Travel, offers longstanding experience, expertise and leading capabilities spanning program implementation to budget optimization to deliver powerful meetings and events experiences for clients. The global team is focused on meetings and events sourcing, planning, contract negotiations, budgeting, expense management, reporting, and benchmarking, combined with strategic counsel and integration of leading technology. This end-to-end approach focuses on creating visibility, driving savings, and enabling effective meeting experiences.

With more than 50 years in the industry and a presence in over 100 countries, American Express Meetings & Events is uniquely positioned to manage meetings and events locally, regionally, internationally, and across the globe. The company’s broad capabilities meet the full spectrum of every client’s meetings and events needs, especially through GBT’s 2017 acquisition of events management agency, Banks Sadler, and the 2018 acquisition of travel management company, HRG, including its meetings and events division. American Express Meetings & Events works with local leaders to enhance its offerings to clients.

For 13 consecutive years, American Express Meetings & Events has been recognized on Meetings Net’s “CMI 25” list[1], an annual directory of the largest and most influential full-service meeting and incentive travel management companies focused on the US corporate meetings and incentives industry.  To learn more about the services offered by American Express Meetings & Events, visit:

 About American Express Global Business Travel 

American Express Global Business Travel (GBT) is the world’s leading business partner for managed travel. We help companies and their employees prosper by making sure travelers are present where and when it matters. We keep global business moving with the powerful backing of 17,000 travel professionals in more than 140 countries. Companies of all sizes, and in all places, rely on GBT to provide travel management services, organize meetings and events, and deliver business travel consulting.

Learn more at

“American Express Meetings and Events” is a division of American Express Global Business Travel (GBT).  Banks Sadler is wholly owned by GBT. GBT is a joint venture that is not wholly owned by American Express Company or any of its subsidiaries (American Express). “American Express Global Business Travel,” “American Express,” and the American Express logo are trademarks of American Express and are used under limited license.

[1] MeetingsNet’s Annual CMI 25 List,