by Kevin Iwamoto | October 10, 2016

Kevin IwamotoMeeting Professionals International does a quarterly survey of senior-level meeting planners and suppliers, and then releases a quarterly outlook report, which I always review and use to produce forward-looking strategies for clients and corporations. Being the data junkie that I am, I noticed that the Summer 2016 Outlook contained some interesting responses.

While the report finds the meetings industry is still enjoying positive business conditions, it did show a 7 percent drop in optimism from the previous report. Of those surveyed, 63 percent predict favorable business for 2016, compared with 70 percent in the Spring 2016 Outlook. The summer survey also found that the percentage of those anticipating a rise in budgets dropped from 59 percent in spring to 54 percent, with 29 percent expecting flat budgets and 18 percent anticipating a budget decrease.

Since we are in a presidential election year, the news seems to be all about politics and social objections to new laws that negatively impact minorities and the LGBT community at large. If you are wondering if meeting and event managers and planners are voting with their feet, wonder no more.

The Summer 2016 Outlook shared that:

• 30 percent said they are avoiding destinations with laws prohibiting universal restroom use;

• 27 percent said political elections have a significant influence on meetings and events;

• 19 percent are avoiding locations with more liberal handgun or weapons laws.

Recent fallout from perceived discriminatory laws include the National Collegiate Athletic Association canceling its 2016 sporting events in North Carolina due to the state’s recent transgender bathroom law. (Read M&C’s coverage of that decision here.) Prior to that were many other cases where destinations and CVBs saw meetings, events, and sporting games canceled and relocated because the organizations and planners wanted to send a message to local and state politicians that they didn’t agree with their lawmaking decisions.

The power of organizers and planners to relocate business due to political rulings that are deemed discriminatory is a formidable statement to local governments and bureaucrats. At minimum, moving any large to mega-size event, sporting game, conference, etc., means a loss of millions of dollars in local and state tax revenues plus the loss of revenue for local and state venues, hotels, restaurants, taxis, Uber and Lyft, retail shopping outlets and more.

M&C also tackled this topic in June, with even more dramatic results to a research report, “Will You Meet in Mississippi or North Carolina." Of the 212 respondents to the survey, 49 percent said laws concerning the rights of LGBT people "absolutely" affect their site-selection decisions, and another 16 percent said such laws will "possibly" be influential in site selection. (Read the survey here and dozens of planner comments on this hot topic here.)

I hope our industry publications and associations continue to measure and report on these trends, as it only serves to demonstrate the true power and influence the meeting and events industry wields.

Kevin Iwamoto is senior consultant at GoldSpring Consulting. You can follow him on Twitter@KevinIwamoto.