Top Regions and Trends for Hosting Business Events and Meetings

For corporate event attendees, the idea of a typical event can evoke images of drab conference rooms, uncomfortable lanyards, and hotel rooms with charming views of the airport parking lot. The emphasis on creating an engaging and worthwhile experience has often taken a backseat to convenience and necessity. However as a new decade begins to unfold, recent trends in event planning suggest a keen interest in making business meetings feel more in touch with modern lifestyles. 

According to the American Express 2020 Global Meetings and Events Forecast, the “focus over the last few years on improving attendee experience and engagement has raised expectations that meeting planners will create immersive, memorable experience.” One popular option for corporations is to blur the lines between business and personal travel. Rather than treating a corporate retreat or conference as an event with a singular focus on business, “bleisure” – a portmanteau of the words “business” and “leisure” – melds aspects of the modern work-life balance to deliver a wholly unique experience. 

Compared to five years ago, 92% of event planners and Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, Exhibitions (MICE) professionals find that events are more likely to be booked outside of the confines of a hotel conference room. Breakout sessions in well-trodden meeting rooms are being exchanged for morning poolside meetings, hikes, or fireside chats to enjoy the location’s ambience and learn more about the location’s culture. Hosting business events outside of traditional meeting places allows attendees to be more relaxed and comfortable with sharing their ideas, build team spirit and strengthen relationships with colleagues, and enjoy and learn from their travel time while avoiding the monotonous routine mandated by events of the past.

To adjust to the evolving shape of corporate gatherings, organizations and event planners must balance thinking “out-of-the-box” to pique attendees’ interest with accommodating the necessary logistics behind executing an event. For example, gathering for a conference in the mountains may seem like an incredible opportunity on paper, but a lack of local transportation options, lodging, safety precautions, and/or other crucial aspects behind a major event can lead to serious questions over the event’s cost and feasibility. The American Express 2020 Global Meetings and Events Forecast found that tight budgets and space issues have caused problems for planners tasked with keeping attendees engaged. Considering the report predicts meetings will last up to 2.9% longer with 3.1% more attendees, executing a logistically feasible event remains an industry imperative.

Around the world, several cities have emerged as popular gathering places for corporate events that manage the delicate balance of cost, logistics, and interest of attendees. The American Express 2020 Global Meetings and Events Forecast highlighted four of the most intriguing regions around the globe, including the top destinations within:

  • Asia Pacific: Greater meeting activity is anticipated throughout the Asia Pacific, with up to 4.8% increase in China and 3.1% increase in Australia. Throughout the region, a diverse mix of internal team meetings, product launches, conferences, and trade shows will split between mid-tier properties, luxury properties, and resorts. In particular, Singapore remains a top destination in Asia thanks to its well-developed meeting and events industry with Bangkok and Hong Kong rounding out Asia’s top three destinations for 2020. Average daily costs for China and Hong Kong range from US $713 to US $860 per attendee. In Australia, Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane are the region’s leading choices, with an average cost per attendee between US $472 and US $672 per day.
  • Central and South America: The most popular destinations for 2020 in the Caribbean and Latin America will be Nassau, Playa del Carmen, and Cancun. Mexico and Brazil are expected to be two of Latin America’s largest regional meeting places, with increases in activity of up to 3% for each country. Corporations are choosing regional destinations with strong infrastructure and well-established hotel brands, as well as unique locations such as Medellin, Colombia, to offer differentiated experiences. Product launches are among the most popular meeting options, each of which can top out at above US $800 per attendee. Concerns over political instability and safety often factor into meeting planning decisions throughout the region. Additionally, keep in mind that seasons are reversed in the southern hemisphere, which means summer is approximately November to February and winter stretches from June to August.
  • Europe: Meeting growth is expected to remain stable, with a modest increase of up to 1.8% since 2019 among product launches, incentives, and team meetings. Planners are focused on finding trendy, individually-designed meeting spaces for small groups, with a greater emphasis on boutique hotel brands, creative locations, and unique venues. Europe’s top meeting destinations for 2020 are London, Berlin, Barcelona, Paris, and Amsterdam, with an average regional cost of US $745 per attendee.
  • North America: The United States and Canada are expected to remain consistently popular for internal team and training meetings, product launches, and incentives, anticipating a growth in activity of up to 2.5% across the continent. The top destinations for meetings and events in the United States are Orlando, Las Vegas, and Chicago, and the top Canadian destinations are Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal. Average prices per attendee range between US $506 and US $798 per day.
With the rise of “bleisure,” event attendees are becoming savvier and growing their expectations of novelty when it comes to attending business events. No matter the region, the right event location should offer the right mix of business opportunities and accessibility. However, while educational opportunities, networking events, and meeting spaces can be adapted to any locale, interesting venues should not overlook concerns over attendee safety, the overall event cost, or the overall purpose of the event. Organizations and event planners must find a balance to make events in 2020 as original and memorable as possible while keeping their corporate goals in mind to make the event truly successful.