The No. 1 concern cited by 181 respondents to Development Counsellors International’s (DCI) latest survey is safety and security issues in destinations. And that didn’t come as a surprise to Daniella Middleton. The respondents are organizers of international events for whom “safety and security considerations have been a hot topic,” Middleton, who is vice president at DCI, told Convene. “No destination is considered safe anymore.”
But the stressor that came in second did take Middleton — who co-authored the report summarizing the survey results, “A View From Meeting Planners: Winning Strategies in Destination Marketing” — aback. It was suppliers’ responsiveness — or lack thereof — during the planning process.
Thirty-eight percent of planners indicated that was a big concern, beating out declining budgets. This indicates a mismatch between expectations of suppliers and buyers, she said, and the question is: Are planners expecting quicker and more in-depth responses than suppliers are able to provide? “There is a gap,” she said, “in what suppliers are currently doing in how they respond, versus what planners want and expect.”
In third through fifth place for top stressors for meeting planners: declining budgets (36 percent of respondents indicated this as a concern), increase in workload with no increase in staff resources (35 percent), and declining attendance (23 percent).
Social Buzz and Biz
And while respondents indicated that incorporating new technology at events also stresses them out, they are embracing social media as a tool for both marketing and communication in growing numbers. DCI has been conducting a planner study every third year since 2012. In both the 2012 and 2015 research, less than 5 percent of respondents reported using social media for business purposes. This year, more than three times that number — 17 percent — of respondents reported using social media for business compared to the two previous reports.
“For social media, we finally saw an uptick in importance. Our industry has been a little bit slower to that,” Middleton said. “By no means is it the leading [influencer], but it was a significant enough jump for us to say, ‘This is important, and if you don’t have a plan or a strategy or you’re not thinking about social media, now should be the time.’ Because more and more planners are using LinkedIn or even Facebook to communicate with suppliers or get information on destinations.”
LinkedIn is the top social-media platform planner respondents say they use for business: (65 percent), followed by Facebook (48 percent), and industry forums (26 percent).
The Trump Effect
A new question added to this year’s survey asked respondents how the current U.S. administration has affected the number of events they plan in the states. “We wanted to understand,” Middleton said, if the Trump effect “is real or perceived. Is it something people are just talking about, or is it actually impacting events?”
From respondents’ answers, it seems that not much has changed since the previous report in 2015, before Donald Trump was elected president. The majority of respondents (67 percent) reported that since Trump’s inauguration, the likelihood of their planning events in the U.S. remains the same. Nineteen percent of respondents indicated that they are less likely to explore U.S. destinations for their business events; on the opposite end of the spectrum, 14 percent of respondents said they are more likely to plan events in the U.S. as a result of the current administration.
As for the effect of current U.S. policies and politics on attendance, the majority of respondents (62 percent) have seen no discernable change for their U.S. events. More than a quarter (28 percent) reported seeing a decline in the number of attendees for their U.S. events, and 9 percent said they’ve seen an increase. Overall, results show that the majority of respondents haven’t seen a major impact to their U.S. events, in terms of their own planning and current attendance.
“I don’t know what we were anticipating, but there was a lot of talk about how international policies, visa restrictions, and people just feeling a specific way about the current administration — whether that’s positive or negative — would impact U.S. events.” Middleton said. “But not much has changed.”
To learn more about “A View From Meeting Planners: Winning Strategies in Destination Marketing,” visit convn.org/dci-report.