Carlson Wagonlit Travel's annual forecast, released in August, predicts modest increases next year in meeting and event spending as well as in supplier pricing.
The Minneapolis-based travel management company notes that meeting spend gradually increased in the first half of 2010, along with improvements in corporate revenues and profitability. The agency expects this trend to continue over the next few years, with event volumes likely returning to pre-2009 levels between 2012 and 2014 in North America and Europe.
Expenditures are expected to remain at levels slightly below the previous norms. CWT says meetings spend will be about 1.9 to 2.3 percent of top-line revenue next year; before 2009, it averaged about 2.5 to 3 percent of a company's top-line revenue.
"Increased cost pressures have led to new efficiencies, as well as permanent reductions in budgets," noted Terry Sloan, director of business development for CWT Meetings & Events, North America. CWT expects spend to be between 2.6 and 2.8 percent of top-line revenue when volumes fully recover.
Average spend per attendee, which increased by 13 percent year-over-year in the first half of 2010, is expected to increase another 7 to 11 percent next year. That is driven in part by U.S. hotel rate increases, which CWT predicts will be from 6.4 to 7.4 percent in 2011. Steeper hikes are expected in the Northeast region, by as much as 12 to 12.5 percent over this year.
Increased demand and crude-oil prices, together with further reductions in passenger capacity, should contribute to airfare increases of 3 to 5 percent in domestic economy tickets. Domestic first-class and business-class fares are predicted to drop, however, by 2 and 7 percent, respectively, which could result in business travelers returning to the front of the plane.