Spending on North American meetings and the number of meetings held are expected to remain relatively flat in 2013, according to the American Express Meetings & Events 2013 Global Meetings Forecast. In the face of rising costs, specifically a projected 4.2 percent rise in group hotel rates for the region, Amex expects meeting holders will keep very close tabs on spend. "Companies consider meetings and events to be a key strategy to driving revenue growth and change management," noted Issa Jouaneh, vice president and general manager of American Express Meetings & Events. "But they acknowledge that they are proceeding with caution in a challenging global economy. To maximize return on their investment, companies are highly focused on gaining clarity around spend, ensuring transparency as to why their organizations are holding meetings and who is attending them, and measuring the degree to which their meetings objectives have been achieved." The Asia Pacific region is expected to see the strongest growth in both the number of meetings (up 6.4 percent) and spending (up 4.2 percent), as group hotel rates are expected to grow by 4 percent in the region next year. Small decreases both in number of meetings (down 1.1 percent) and spend (down 3.5 percent) are expected in Central and South America, while the steepest declines are expected for Europe, with a 2.3 percent reduction in the number of meetings and a 6 percent drop in meetings spend. "Meeting professionals in every region point to budget challenges," noted Jouaneh. "One of the top emerging trends in the space is the shift to more local meetings." The projections are based on survey results, meetings and events data, and interviews with meeting professionals, all conducted by American Express. The forecast also details tactics planners are using to reduce costs and improve program effectiveness. The free report can be requested here.