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‘Smaller travel budgets’ top concern for international meetings planners

Shrinking travel budgets and ‘increasingly difficult’ visa issues were amongst the biggest concerns for organisers of international association meetings, according to a survey.

The Brussels-based Union of International Associations (UIA) has released the findings from the 2020 edition of its Survey on International Meetings Issues.

Survey respondents noted that practical difficulties for their participants, such as budget restriction, travel costs and visa issues remain the biggest area of concern (25 per cent), closely followed (21 per cent) by concerns over reduced funding and fewer sponsors and exhibitors.

“Our single biggest logistical hurdle is visa issues for participants,” one respondent commented.

“We rotate our location to make it easier for everyone to have a chance to attend somewhere reasonably close to their own region, but the reality is that some regions are simply much more politically difficult.

“We have noticed that many international organisations regularly use South Africa, Turkey, and Thailand for large meetings because they are consistently visa-friendly.

“We are considering doing this ourselves, as Latin America and Europe are increasingly difficult.”

Published every three years, the survey revealed that 89 per cent of respondents organise one or more major international meeting, with half holding them at least once a year.

The research also indicated that 33 per cent of event planners responsible for organising the largest meetings are mostly “unfamiliar with the services offered by a CVB (convention and visitor bureau)” in the destination. A further 18 per cent said they know what a CVB offers but have never used one.

Only 12 per cent have consulted a CVB in the last five years, compared to 16 per cent in 2018.

The consensus among the 2020 survey respondents is that CVBs should be used in a practical way to help find accommodation and venues. However, 14 per cent of respondents said they would expect a CVB to help them obtain a subsidy from the host city.

But as one survey respondent pointed out, a CVBs involvement can be priceless. “I recently returned from Meetings Afrika and found the meetings I set up with CVBs invaluable. We hold 11 regional meetings annually in all regions of the world, so I am always looking for government partners with incentive packages.”

Unsurprisingly, the 2020 findings showed that opportunities for online participation had increased, with ‘live streaming of (some) speakers or sessions’ increasing from 16 per cent in 2018 to 23 per cent in 2020.

Other findings remain largely unchanged since 2018 with registration fees still the main source of income to cover the costs of the meetings and September and October remain the preferred months to hold a meeting.

The full report can be accessed here.

Note – Some of the responses were received during Q1 of 2020, including before any impact of Covid-19 was evident. In light of this and the ongoing issues caused by the pandemic response, we will survey the associations again in 2021.