Meetings industry has achieved consistent growth in spend and attendees for the fourth consecutive year, solidifying its value as a business enabler

London, UK, October 15th, 2018 – A decade after the 2008 global economic recession, the meetings industry has bounced back and settled into a new normal of steady and stable growth according to the 2019 Global Meetings and Events Forecast by American Express Meetings & Events (M&E), a division of American Express Global Business Travel (GBT).

In 2019, global meetings activity is expected to grow along with small increases in budget allocation for meetings and events. Consolidation across the industry and the rise of disruptive suppliers creates an environment where meeting planners feel more pressure but also have more choice. This dynamic allows the industry to collectively tackle long-term challenges, such as live inventory for small and simple meetings, and increased opportunities for attendee engagement. Regional forecasts are also optimistic, reflecting overall industry sentiment.

Surveyed planners agreed that the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is impacting the industry far beyond Europe where the regulation was developed. As emerging technologies such as virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and facial recognition transform meetings and events and create more data, compliance and privacy concerns will only grow in importance. These technologies offer attendees what they’re becoming accustomed to in their daily lives, making meetings more immersive and engaging.

“2019 will be a growth year for the meetings industry, with activity expected to increase across all meeting types and regions,” said Issa Jouaneh, Senior Vice President & General Manager at American Express Meetings & Events. “The challenge before planners is mastering this volume, while working with the reality of expenses increasing at a higher rate than meetings budgets. Strategic meetings built around defined goals that prioritise the attendee experience and embrace technology will continue to elevate meetings as a business tool despite these challenges.”


Meeting planners in Europe are learning to navigate the new normal with high expectations and an expanding scope. Activity across meeting types is increasing, especially in Germany and Spain, which lead the way in Europe. Both countries will see increases in number of meetings and number of attendees for product launches and customer advisory board meetings.  Similar to North America, modest growth in budgets (0.7%) is not expected to keep up with rising hotel rates (1.6%).

North America

In North America, planners are managing competing demands: they need to improve the attendee experience while working within budgetary constraints. The region will see small, but material, increases in number of meetings, attendees, meeting length, and cost per attendee – a hallmark of the industry’s new normal. Meeting budgets are expected to increase by 0.8% despite increasing hotel rates (2.4%) and lower commissions, which two thirds of planners cite as the main consequence of hotel consolidation. Doing more with less is the persistent goal of the meeting planner in this region, with 33% of those surveyed reporting they would elevate content first if corporate meetings budgets increased.

Asia Pacific

Planners in APAC are striving to do more with less in the region. Growth is predicted, and while costs are balanced for now, they are rising faster than corporate meetings budgets. This creates pressure for ROI. As a result, one quarter of planners across the region are choosing second-tier destinations to defray costs, up from only 3% the previous year. Interestingly, priorities for per-attendee spend vary greatly across the region: Companies in Japan spend most on incentives, in China the priority is senior leadership meetings, while in Australia, product launches receive the most attention.

Central & South America

Rising local and international activity signals a growing region, and planners in Central & South America are employing technology to keep pace with demand. Although face-to-face interactions maintain cultural significance, virtual meetings are a valuable option for budget-conscious companies, with 76% of planners anticipating the use of virtual meeting technology. Still, Latin American destinations like Rio de Janeiro, Cancun/Riviera Maya, and Mexico City continue to climb as top meeting spots internationally. Conferences and tradeshows are showing interest in Brazil especially and are likely to take advantage of facilities built for recent global sporting events to attract attendees to new destinations.

The eighth annual Global Meetings Industry Forecast takes a new format for 2019, while continuing to deliver comprehensive data relevant to all those within the industry. New infographics in each section summarise key data points and trends from our global survey of meetings professionals and suppliers, industry data, and in-depth interviews with planners and buyers, meeting, air, and ground suppliers worldwide. The forecast, conducted by American Express Meetings & Events, examines budgets, spend, the number of meetings, and other industry-specific metrics by geographic region.

Below is a high-level snapshot of the key 2019 predictions based on a survey of meetings professionals:

Survey Highlights: Overall Meeting Activity Levels

2019 vs. 2018

  North America Europe Central/

S. America

Asia Pacific
Internal Team Meeting/Training 1.23% 0.64% -0.09% -0.79%
Product Launch (Internal/External) 1.19% 1.15% -0.05% 0.52%
Conference/Tradeshow 0.50% 0.65% 1.39% 0.56%
Senior Leadership Meeting/

Board Meeting

1.11% 0.92% 0.69% -0.14%
Client/Customer Advisory Board 1.33% 1.55% 1.93% 0.18%
Incentive/Special Event 0.86% 0.77% 1.77% 0.69%


Survey Highlights: Overall Meeting Spend Within Organisations

2019 vs. 2018

North America Europe Central/

S. America

Asia Pacific
0.80% -0.65% 0.26% 0.86%


Survey Highlights: Overall Group Hotel Rates

2019 vs. 2018

North America Europe Central/

S. America

Asia Pacific Global Hoteliers
2.41% 1.61% 0.96% 1.11% 2.29%


Survey Highlights: Percent of Planners who see lower commissions as the main consequence of recent hotel mergers and acquisitions

North America Europe Central/

S. America

Asia Pacific
68% 50% 50% 57%


The 2019 Global Meetings and Events Forecast by American Express Meetings & Events also contains three special sections: The Future of Personalisation by the Banks Sadler team, a meetings management and consulting services company acquired by GBT in 2017; Meetings Legal Trends; and a Latin America Destination Report, which expands on how and why to plan meetings in the region’s top destinations.

Click here to download the full report and access more content around the 2019 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 programme implementation to budget optimisation 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 customer’s meetings and event’s needs, especially through GBT’s 2017 acquisition of events management agency, Banks Sadler, and the 2018 acquisition of travel management company, HRG, including their meetings and events division. American Express Meetings & Events works with local leaders to enhance its offerings to clients.

American Express Meetings & Events has been named for nine years consequently to 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 travellers are present where and when it matters. We keep global business moving with the powerful backing of 16,000 travel professionals in more than 140 countries. Companies of all sizes, and in all places, rely on GBT to provide travel management services, organise meetings and events, and deliver business travel consulting.

Learn more at

“American Express Meetings and Events” is a service provided by 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,