Global Planner 2012

Exclusive research on international meetings and incentives

For the ninth consecutive year, M&C takes an in-depth look at the business of planning meetings, conventions, trade shows, incentive programs and other events outside the United States. Our survey of 126 meeting professionals, 83 of whom work for corporations and 43 for associations, reveals where U.S. groups met in 2011 and the top international destinations for both meetings and incentives this year and next year. Among other topics addressed: what planners look for when choosing international destinations, the types of events they plan, the types of suppliers and services they use, and much more.

TOP SPOTS: 2011Europe was the top international destination for U.S. groups last year, according to 60 percent of those polled. Canada was the second-most popular spot for international meetings, according to 54 percent of respondents, followed by Mexico with 40 percent. Rounding out the list were Asia (38 percent), followed by Caribbean/Bermuda (32 percent), Central/South America (26 percent), Australia/New Zealand (17 percent), Middle East (15 percent) and Africa (8 percent).


Past Travels chart

CURRENT PICKS: 2012 This year, Europe retains the top spot for meetings held outside the U.S., according to 59 percent of respondents, who will hold meetings there. The next most popular regions are Asia and Canada, each cited by 39 percent of those polled, followed by the Caribbean/Bermuda (30 percent), Central/South America (26 percent), Mexico (26 percent), Middle East (15 percent), Australia/New Zealand (12 percent) and Africa (2 percent). Two percent of respondents will not hold any international meetings in 2012.


GP2012 Boost 2012 chart

       GP2012 Smiling international chart        


GP2012 Destination chart

GP2012 Steady 2013 chartTHE YEAR AHEAD: 2013 Next year, Europe should hold its top spot for 58 percent of planners surveyed. Canada again will rank second (42 percent will hold events there), followed closely by Asia (41 percent). Next most popular for 2013 will be Mexico (31 percent), Caribbean/Bermuda (30 percent), Central/South America (30 percent), GP2012 Smile chart 2013Mexico (30 percent), Australia/New Zealand (15 percent), Middle East (13 percent) and Africa (10 percent). Just 3 percent of respondents don't plan to hold meetings outside the U.S. in 2013.

GP2012 Destination 2013 chart 

EVENTS AT A GLANCE• Type of meeting. Among types of meetings corporate planners hold outside the U.S. are general meetings (74 percent), incentive trips (52 percent), board meetings (35 percent), trade shows (28 percent) and product launches (22 percent). For association planners, 72 percent take their annual meetings to international destinations, followed by board meetings (55 percent), trade shows/conventions (50 percent) and chapter meetings (30 percent).

• Number of meetings. Most respondents (59 percent) typically plan one to five meetings annually; 16 percent plan six to 10; 11 percent plan more than 20; 7 percent plan 11 to 15, and 2 percent plan 6 to 20.

Compared with 2011, 36 percent expect the number of international meetings their companies will hold in 2012 to increase, 56 percent will hold the same number of meetings and just 8 percent said the number of global meetings will decrease.

Looking ahead, 32 percent of respondents will hold more meetings outside the U.S. next year compared with 2012, 64 percent foresee no change and only 4 percent expect the number to decrease year-over-year.

• Size of groups. More than half (54 percent) said their group size for international events will stay the same this year compared with 2011, 21 percent said the number will increase and for 8 percent it will decrease; 17 percent were unsure.

• Duration of events. The majority of respondents (56 percent) said their last international meeting ran three to four days, while 22 percent met for five days or more, and 22 percent gathered for two days or fewer.



GP2012 Question chart2


KEY CRITERIA What matters to planners when they evaluate international destinations? Top criteria are quality of accommodations (cited by 73 percent of survey respondents), closely followed by good airlift (71 percent), reputation of the destination (68 percent) and security (62 percent).

LAST WORD With all the legwork planners do to build a short list of destinations and venues, who has final say over the choices made for international meetings? For corporate meetings, the majority of those polled (46 percent) said the choice ultimately is finalized by the CEO or other top-level executive, followed by a team of planner and third party (22 percent),  the planning department (8 percent), the director of marketing or sales
(5 percent), the travel manager/director (4 percent) and the procurement department (1 percent).
For the association planners surveyed, 32 percent said the CEO or other top-level executive has the last word in international site selection, followed by the board and a team of planner and third party (each with 16 percent), the planning department (13 percent) and the meeting chairperson (10 percent).

BUDGET MATTERS According to a quarter of those polled, the budget for their last international meeting was in the range of $150,000-$499,999. In additional findings:

• 17 percent reported having budgets of $10,000 to $49,999;

• 14 percent spent $50,000-$99,999;

• 9 percent had budgets of $1 million or more, and

• 6 percent had budgets of less than $10,000.

For their next international event, planners reported generally similar budgets, with 26 percent citing funds of $150,000-$499,999 and 18 percent in the $50,000-$99,999 range. In addition:

• 14 percent reported budgets of $500,000-$999,000;

• 13 percent have budgets of $10,000-$49,999;

• 12 percent reported budgets of $100,000-$149,000;

• 10 percent have budgets of less than $10,000 for their next international meeting, and

• 7 percent fall into the $1 million or more category.


GP2012 Question chart3

SOURCE NOTES Obtaining promotional materials (brochures, CDs, maps) remains the top reason planners use convention and visitor bureaus and national tourism organizations, cited by 44 percent of respondents, followed by setting up site inspections (40 percent), restaurant recommendations (37 percent), pre/post-event tour suggestions (34 percent), theme party ideas (33 percent) and availability of meeting planning guides (30 percent).

E-mail is the best way for international suppliers to reach planners, according to 84 percent of those polled, followed by fam trips (45 percent), Internet/other resources (43 percent), trade shows/networking events (38 percent), direct mail (23 percent) and a phone call (10 percent). Just 1 percent of planners favor receiving a fax from global suppliers.

GP2012 Final Say chart
BEDS ABROAD When it comes to selecting accommodations for their attendees, 44 percent of those polled bring groups to upscale hotels. Others use luxury properties (22 percent) or midscale (14 percent). Another 20 percent of respondents use a combination of the above. None of the respondents used budget properties for their international  events this year.

Interestingly, in M&C's 2011 survey, just 11 percent of respondents said they used luxury properties for their meetings outside the U.S.

Not surprisingly, 80 percent of those polled said a guaranteed price for hotels or services in U.S. dollars makes an international destination appealing to their organizations. 


GP2012 Lodging chart


The news is good for incentive programs: More than 80 percent of planners who hold motivational events will do so outside the U.S. in 2012 or 2013, the highest such number since the recession began in 2008, with fewer than 20 percent still staying close to home.

As projected in our 2011 survey, the Caribbean/Bermuda is indeed the top destination by far for incentive programs in 2012, as cited by 62 percent of respondents. Europe takes second place, per 38 percent of those polled. This year, for the first time, we've separated Mexico (in third place per 31 percent of respondents) and Canada (chosen by 22 percent), which are followed by Central/South America (11 percent), Asia (7 percent), Australia/New Zealand and the Middle East (each with 2 percent).


GP2012 Incentive reward chart2


For 2013, the Caribbean/Bermuda will retain its top spot per 56 percent of those polled, followed by Europe (rising to 49 percent), Mexico (33 percent), Canada (24 percent), Central/South America (11 percent), Asia (11 percent), Africa (4 percent) and Australia/New Zealand (2 percent).

As for the size of incentive groups in 2012, the number is unchanged since last year for 40 percent of those polled; 29 percent will see an increase in participants, 9 percent anticipate a decrease and 22 percent are unsure.


National tourist offices, convention bureaus and other destination management organizations offer assistance to planners, but nearly half of those surveyed use such resources "infrequently" (association planners were more likely to use them their corporate counterparts). Another 28 percent use them often, 13 percent always use them and 11 percent never use such agencies.

Interestingly, for 63 percent of planners, having a personal relationship with an international supplier (hotelier, destination management executive) influences their destination decisions; another 22 percent say such connections matter very little, and 10 percent say they have no effect.

More than half (55 percent) of respondents prefer to work with both the U.S. and international branch of a tourist office or convention bureau, while 26 percent favor working only with U.S.-based representatives and 19 percent prefer dealing solely with the overseas office.


GP2012 Global Home chart2

GP2012 Fear chartTerrorism remains the most pressing concern for the meeting professionals queried; about one third (35 percent) say it significantly influences their plans concerning international meetings or incentives.

Other key considerations affecting plans include the U.S./global economy, according to 30 percent of respondents; local health concerns (28 percent); natural disasters (24 percent); public and/or media perceptions of meetings and events (20 percent), and international currency exchange rates (15 percent).