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Study finds companies adapting to tighter meeting budgets

U.S. corporations have been keeping tighter controls on their meeting budgets as well as their general travel budgets, and planners are using a variety of strategies to make those meeting dollars go farther, according to a new study from the consulting form The Active Network.

“Organizations are adopting strategies such as trimming event size, switching to local destinations and holding shorter meetings in order to reduce and control meeting costs,” said J.R. Sherman, The Active Network’s senior vp-business solutions, based on the firm’s study of electronic meeting request for proposals (eRFPs) in five key business markets over the past four years (Chicago, New York, Orlando, Las Vegas and Los Angeles).

The study found that from 2008 to 2012, the number of meetings for fewer than 50 participants increased by 5 percent, while the number of events for 51-100 persons and 101-250 attendees fell by 2 and 3 percent respectively. Over the same period, the number of conferences limited to one day or less grew from 14 percent of all meetings to 35 percent.

“In addition,” the company said, “two- and three-day events fell from 46 percent of eRFPs in 2008 to 40 percent in 2012. The trend is expected to fuel the demand for mobile applications that streamline meeting tasks, such as downloading agendas and providing session feedback, to help attendees do more with less time.”

The study also found that companies and organizations are planning closer to the event than before. Some 30 percent of the eRFPs last year had a lead time of 60 days or less, vs. 27 percent in 2008; and lead times of 121 days or more fell from 41 to 38 percent in the same time frame. “The shorter lead times reflect delays in meetings budget approvals as companies watch their wallets more closely, requiring hotels to be quicker on their feet and planners to narrow their focus accordingly,” : the company said.

Despite the squeeze on budgets, the study found that levels off meeting activity in the five key markets last year were running 6 percent ahead of 2008. “More significantly, the total eRFPs received through October 2012 stood 46 percent higher than the recessionary low mark in 2009, illustrating the dramatic scale of the recovery,” the company said.

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