Emerging Meetings Markets

Here's how key developing destinations such as China, Brazil, India are changing the landscape of the meetings industry.

Facts at a Glance
HITEX International Exhibition CenterBrazil, China and India are among the top emerging global meetings destinations. Following is a snapshot of their offerings:

Current hotels: 1,432
Hotel pipeline: 147
International association events hosted in 2012: 360
Major convention centers: Riocentro (Rio de Janeiro); Anhembi Park (São Paulo); Bahia Convention Center (Salvador)
Contact: Brazilian Tourist Office (Embratur), braziltour.com

Current hotels: 8,222
Hotel pipeline: 715
International association events hosted in 2012: 311
Major convention centers: China National Convention Center (Beijing); Beijing International Convention Center; Shanghai World Expo Exhibition & Convention Center; Guanzhou International Convention Exhibition Center
Contact: China National Tourist Office, cnto.org

Current hotels: 3,009
Hotel pipeline: 374
International association events hosted in 2012: 150
Major convention centers: Bombay Convention & Exhibition Center (Mumbai); HITEX International Exhibition Center (Hyderabad, pictured above) and India Expo Center (New Delhi)
Contact: India Tourism, incredibleindia.org

Sources: STR, Embratur, International Congress and Convention Association

What constitutes an "emerging market"? By definition, it is a country whose economy is just beginning to grow. But as it pertains to the meetings industry, the term can apply to any of the following:

• A destination that is just discovering how meetings, incentives and exhibitions can further boost its economy;

• A country with a newly developed infrastructure (e.g., hotels, convention facilities, airports and destination management firms) for hosting events; and

• A country that, due to its strong economy, is developing domestic meetings markets and even expanding its group business regionally and overseas.

A number of nations have met some or all of these criteria in recent years, including China, India and Brazil, which leading hospitality companies such as Starwood Hotels and Resorts consider some of the fastest-growing hotel markets in the world. And where hotels sprout, meetings are sure to follow.

China, for example, was cited as the most popular country in Asia for meetings, according to a fall 2012 research study conducted by Reed Travel Exhibitions, organizers of the annual China Incentive, Business Travel & Meetings Exhibition (cibtm.com) held in Beijing. Indeed, Reed reports that CIBTM itself has doubled in size since 2009. And
Geneva-based multinational planning giant MCI (mci-group.com) says a quarter of its revenues now come from Asia, with China providing the lion's share.

In India, Reed sees enough potential that it is launching an inaugural IBTM there this fall. And with business so strong in Latin America, globally focused industry associations expect to see big membership increases from those countries. At the same time, meetings industry show organizers are taking note of the next generation of emerging markets, chiefly Eastern Europe, Turkey and the Middle East.

On the following pages, leaders from the convention, association, corporate and incentive sectors weigh in on how these destinations are affecting their own organizations and the very landscape of the meetings realm, exposing a fast-growing number of planners and attendees to new lands and cultures.

The Expanding World of EventsBeijing’s Olympic StadiumOne key way the industry gauges emerging markets is by tallying the number of large-scale conventions and events these destinations host. The annual city and country rankings compiled by the Amsterdam, Netherlands-based International Congress and Convention Association (iccaworld.com) are considered the gold standard of industry research. In fact, many meeting professionals, like MCI's CEO Sebastien Tondeur (see "Behind the Foreign Veil"), look to ICCA when mapping out future growth plans for their businesses.

In ICCA's most recent country rankings (bit.ly/18ILvVF), based on the number of international association conferences held in 2012, six emerging countries made it into the top 25: Brazil, which hosted 360 events, China (311), Argentina (202), Turkey (179), Mexico (163) and India (150). In terms of cities, Istanbul, Turkey; Beijing; and Buenos Aires, Argentina, were among the top 20, hosting 128, 109 and 99 events, respectively.

ICCA CEO Martin Sirk attributes the strength of these newer markets, particularly China, to increased understanding of how the international association convention market works (e.g., networking, joining industry associations and educating themselves on markets outside their region). "To be successful, it's no longer sufficient to have good access, great venues, adequate mix of hotels, and well-established meetings management companies; those are entry-level requirements," he says.

MCI's Tondeur adds that these countries' increased presence in associations like ICCA, which provides much-needed education about the industry, have been instrumental in helping them become strong contenders in a competitive global destination field. 

ICCA, which already had regional offices in Asia, Latin America and the U.S., opened two new offices this year to serve Africa and the Middle East. According to the group's president, Arnaldo Nardone, the new offices are "a recognition that the international association meetings market is continuing to evolve, and it is in the growth of the regional meetings we hold there that we anticipate some of the most dramatic future developments."

Another major trade show and convention group, the Dallas-based International Association of Exhibitions and Events (iaee.com), sees education at the local level in emerging markets as key to its own expansion and mission. IAEE currently has 1,100 member organizations in 40 countries, but just 10 percent are non-U.S. firms.

According to CEO David DuBois, who took over the top spot at IAEE in late 2012, one of the organization's goals is to boost membership from non-U.S. entities to 15 percent. Among the countries and regions the group has set its sights on are Brazil, China, India, the Pacific Rim and Latin America, but a top priority at present is Mexico.

CancunAlthough Mexico already has a sophisticated convention product, notes DuBois, there is a lot of room to grow. "There's a need for more venues in Mexico's regional cities, as well as in Cancún, Guadalajara and Mexico City," he says.

Based on strong interest from domestic trade show professionals, IAEE launched a Mexico chapter this year.

Looking ahead, the association plans to hire a full-time staffer in China, where it has 24 member organizations but no official chapter, to help develop educational programs, which the organization wants to do in the country's three largest cities of Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. DuBois hopes education will spur the Chinese community, which includes more than 700 professionals who have earned IAEE's certified exhibition manager certification, to eventually form a chapter.

This spring, IAEE held its first educational event in India, which DuBois believes shows enormous potential for convention venue and business growth. One of the key imperatives here, he says, is to help the Indian government understand how building world-class convention centers can grow the country's economy.

The Chinese Way
MCI’s Richard Rheindorf
Planning a meeting that includes Chinese delegates? Consider these observations and advice from Richard Rheindorf, CMP, deputy managing director of MCI China.

• Chinese business is very price-driven.

• Attendees -- even doctors whose meetings are paid for by pharmaceutical companies -- are expected to share hotel rooms. As a result, groups generally need rooms with two beds.

• Last-minute changes to hotel
reservations, flights, transportation and even venues are typical, but clients don't expect to pay change or cancellation fees.

• A prevalent business maxim among the Chinese is, "The signing of the contract is the beginning of negotiations."

• If a cocktail reception is part of the agenda, keep it short.

• Dinner should start around 6:30 and end no later than 9 p.m. Rheindorf recalls, "We organized a large gala dinner in the Forbidden City, where a top-name performer was scheduled and the guests knew about it. However, he didn't come on stage until 9:30 p.m., and by that time 80 percent of the Chinese attendees left. Once it is 9 p.m., people just stand up and leave."

This could be important, adds Rheindorf, if a Chinese group is visiting a country where dinner typically starts after 9:30 p.m.

• Once the group sits down for the meal, immediate service is expected. -- L.A.G.

Attendee Profiles Help Set the PaceAnother way the industry gauges the most rapidly developing meetings markets is by looking at the nationalities of the buyers who attend international industry trade shows. "The amount of registrations we receive for hosted buyer programs for each show provides a strong indication of the growth of a market from the buyer side," says Craig Moyes, portfolio director at Reed's IBTM Meetings and Events Portfolio (ibtmevents.com), which includes EIBTM, AIBTM, CIBTM, GIBTM and AIME. "It's an indication that there has been an increase in meetings professionals who have the purchasing power to place their business outbound into international markets."

Rio de Janeiro At Germany's IMEX Frankfurt, one of the two hosted-buyer trade shows organized by IMEX Exhibitions (imexexhibitions.com), there has been a sharp increase in the number of planners attending from Eastern Europe, Asia and South America since 2010. According to IMEX CEO Carina Bauer, at this year's annual show, which took place last month, organizers saw a 100 percent increase in buyers from Mexico, a 40 percent increase from Argentina and a 35 percent increase from Brazil.

From Asia, the numbers are even more dramatic. China, not surprisingly, has seen more than a 100 percent jump in buyers over 2010 figures. "We had around 140 buyers from China this year, while India had a 40 percent increase, to 60 buyers," says Bauer.

In Eastern Europe, Bauer notes, there had been a steady increase in the number of Russian buyers attending, but that growth lately has flattened. Among other countries IMEX sees as up-and-coming markets, based on growth in attendance, are Azerbaijan, Croatia, Hungary, Serbia, Slovenia, the Ukraine, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and United Arab Emirates.

Similar patterns have been observed by Reed executives. "When comparing EIBTM's numbers from 2011 to 2012, we witness an enormous surge -- 103 percent -- of registrations from the Czech Republic," says Moyes. He also cites Turkey, whose buyer numbers increased by 61 percent, Poland (up 35 percent), India (up 24 percent), Hungary (up 20 percent) and China (up 13 percent).

The IBTM group pays close attention to emerging markets when considering where it will start future shows and ventures. They launched events in China (CIBTM, established in 2005) and Abu Dhabi in the UAE (GIBTM, begun in 2007) after looking at their own IBTM Global Industry Research (ibtmevents.com/en/home/Global-Research).

Based on company projections, IBTM will launch its sixth show this fall in what it perceives as the next huge meetings market: India. "With positive growth trends in the Indian economy, that country presents a potentially lucrative market," says Moyes, who adds that the India IBTM will start out as a tabletop event for 50 regional and international suppliers and 50 regional and international buyers.

The show also will include a half-day of education because of "feedback about the importance of education and the role it plays in driving the meetings industry forward across the globe," says Moyes.

Emerging IncentivesThe incentive travel industry also is tapping emerging markets to expand its reach.

Site (siteglobal.com), the Chicago-based association that represents the global incentive industry, currently has some 2,000 members (buyers and suppliers). Slightly more than half are from the U.S., Canada and Mexico, with 26 percent from Europe, 8 percent from Latin America, 6 percent from Asia Pacific, 5 percent from Africa/Middle East and 2 percent from India.

While growth from its larger markets has flattened, Site's biggest expansion has come from India, China, South America and Africa, all of which are expected to produce double-digit increases in membership over the next few years.

"All of these countries are growing their infrastructure -- hotels, entertainment venues and facilities, airports, trains, rail and road infrastructure, convention and meeting spaces, creative product and incentive experiences -- at a rapid rate," says Site president David Sands. He, like other association leaders interviewed, feels that Site can play a crucial role in assisting developing incentive destinations by "leading global education, certification, marketing knowledge, enterprise development advice and global connections, and promoting leadership from within these destinations to the world."

He adds that Site hopes to help the incentive industry in these countries create a home-grown talent pool through its leadership development program for young professionals, the Certified Incentive Specialist credential program.

The thirst for knowledge on incentive and motivation programs from emerging markets also is being noted by leaders at the St. Louis-based Incentive Research Foundation, which conducts research and education for the industry but does not have members or chapters.

"In the first quarter of this year, for the first time ever, we have had multiple requests for IRF staff to speak in or contribute to periodicals in multiple Asian destinations including India, Hong Kong and the Philippines," says IRF CEO Melissa Van Dyke.

She adds that in the first quarter of 2013 alone, the IRF's website, which has a virtual library containing more than 200 incentive studies, saw more than a 100 percent increase in unique visitors who logged in from India, the Philippines, Malaysia and Singapore. "In fact, India now has the number-three spot in unique visitors to our site, just behind the U.S. and the U.K., and is fourth in amount of time spent on our site," says Van Dyke.

Among the topics these new visitors are researching: motivation in the hospitality industry, and basic program design and best practices for incentive programs. 

Behind the Foreign Veil

Sebastien TondeurThe CEO of MCI talks about penetrating new overseas markets

When MCI, one the largest meeting and event firms in the industry, recently created a 10-year growth plan, emerging markets factored heavily in its sights.

"We made a plan to develop our activities in the most international cities of the world," says Sebastien Tondeur, CEO of the company, which has 48 offices in 23 countries. Clients include Amway, Burger King, Coors, the United Nations and dozens of international associations. "We use the International Congress and Convention Association database of countries and cities to discover which destinations attract the most international events, and we aim to be in all top 20 cities of the list," he adds. (MCI currently has offices in 16 of the top 20.)

Today, 40 percent of MCI's revenues come from emerging markets, and the company soon will open offices in Chile, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico and Saudi Arabia.

Tondeur recently spoke with M&C about the challenges of working in and with such countries.

How do you start up a business in one of these new destinations?
The sequence of growth differs by country. When we open a new market, we need to identify an industry leader. Often, the leader will come from a particular segment of the meetings industry, such as conferences or incentives, and will serve as a point person, sharing information about the region, helping with introductions and networking.

Some markets are complete startups, where there is no market or leader in place. For example, in the Middle East, there was no true domestic association market, only international conferences. As a result, we had to start with a destination management company and a meetings division [MCI has five branded divisions: MCI, Ovation Global DMC, Dorier AV Global Solutions, Top Events Hospitality Staff and B-Com Event Management Technology]. Then we worked with universities, governments and tourist offices to grow local, vibrant knowledge platforms, and we were able to extend our offerings from there.

What are the biggest challenges of opening offices in these new areas?

One is staffing. There is a smaller talent pool in emerging markets than in older economies. For example, in Shanghai, I found that only 25 percent of students who study tourism stay in the travel or meetings industry; the other 75 percent go into banking and technology for higher pay.

How do clients from emerging markets differ from those in mature markets?

They operate differently based on culture and market dynamics. We find that innovation can be easier to implement in Asia than in Europe, because customers are constantly looking for growth and creative opportunities to differentiate themselves from the competition. These markets will take more risk for a higher return, whereas in Europe or Canada, we see things evolve slower and more homogeneously.

What are the greatest rewards of working with emerging countries?

Probably the greatest reward for me personally is discovering new cultures and philosophies of life -- it can be life-changing. Professionally, we are able to help write the history of and shape the meetings industry, something not possible in many other business sectors. -- L.A.G.