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CWT M&E’s Ian Cummings on… future event trends

CWT M&E has just released its latest Meetings & Events Future Trends Report. At inVOYAGE 2018, we got the opportunity to catch up with Vice President EMEA Ian Cummings on the state of the global events industry…

So, what’s the good news for #eventprofs?
The future looks bright. I am quite excited for the next few years as companies continue to invest in events as a greater part of the marketing mix. We have seen budgets either stay the same or move up with almost all of the clients we have spoken too. We are generally seeing around 30% of the marketing mix being spent on live events, and I don’t see that changing any time soon, unless we see an economic downturn and marketing spend is slashed.

And the not so good?
Prices are rising and that is a concern. At the same time, we are asking for more and more – as event profs we want the ultimate experience, but often we want that at the same price. It’s an increasing challenge for agencies to deliver more on existing budgets – client budget per head is not keeping pace with expectations. Agencies are also constantly being asked to pitch for events they did the previous year, and business is moving around a lot, so loyalty can be a challenge too.

inVOYAGE is all about the luxury. What trends are you seeing in luxury meetings and incentives?
We are seeing an increased focus on employee incentive schemes – whether that’s incentives for sales or employee engagement or rewarding star performers. And the further ahead of the curve we can get in designing those programmes for our clients the better. Not just the great trip at the end, but the whole programme that precedes it.

The discussions we had at inVOYAGE were really good – it’s positive to see that everyone is seeing that growth in luxury incentives. As always with incentives, it’s about trying to find the wow factor and make it extra special. We are being pushed ever more to find the new and off the beaten track destinations.

On the supplier side, we are seeing major hoteliers like Accor, investing and acquiring luxury brands in super cool locations – they are recognising there is a need for a portfolio of options that really tick the incentive box.

You are quoted in the report as saying that Return on investment (ROI) is still not fully embedded in the industry. How do we get to that point?
We need to raise the conversation level higher up the chain and be talking to C-Suite level – CMOs, COOs, CFOs and even CEOs about their events. We’re now in Q4, so we should be having conversations with organisations about the objectives for their events in 2019 and putting plans in place to meet those objectives. We have surveyed companies about ROI and very few are doing it. If you compare it to buying a piece of software for example, you would absolutely have to measure the return on that spend – so why do we rarely do it on events? We think there is still more work to do on ROI in 2019 and beyond.

Which destinations currently offer the best value for luxury event planners?
The destinations offering the best value are the secondary cities. If you look at what you can achieve in Liverpool, Birmingham and Manchester compared to London, the cost of venue can be up to 50% less. The same goes for Paris, where you can be paying €400-450 a night for a hotel room, whereas outside of Paris it can be €200.

And the most exciting destinations?
It depends on the event as people are prepared to go further afield for incentives. But in Europe, northern Finland and Sweden have some fantastic activities, particularly in the Winter months. As far as cities go, Berlin is really on the map for us at the moment – it has great facilities and activities around the city, and it’s really cool. We also feel that Amsterdam is coming back again. Cities often go in cycles – and a few new openings can bring people back. Amsterdam has a few new properties including a Soho House, which has a great event space.

It’s impossible to predict the impact Brexit will have, if it indeed happens, but what as an industry could or should we be doing to prepare ourselves?
I don’t think that Brexit is not going to substantially affect our industry. Over the past 18 months, we have witnessed quite the opposite. We have seen really strong hotel occupancy rates in London. Once it happens, my main concern is border control and entry and exit into the UK. We can’t be dealing with hour-long waits at border control for delegates coming into the country for a conference, so we need to lobby government to make sure the process is as smooth as possible.

By Susie Harwood

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