19 Trends to Watch in 2019

The crystal ball says, among the trends that will affects in 2019, the economy’s continue rise will be the driving force. Companies have more money for meetings, but planners have less funds to host the events. Meanwhile, hotels are charging higher rates while supply struggles to keep up with demand. But don’t be alarmed. Not all is black and white—millennial pink, anyone? As you buckle up for 2019, we take a look at what will affect you the most over the next 12 months.
  1. On the Up-and-Up

The new normal in events is incremental growth, says American Express Meetings & Events in its 2019 Global Meetings & Events Forecast. Given where the industry was a decade ago, that's great news. “2019 will be a growth year for the meetings industry, with activity expected to increase across all meeting types and regions,” says Issa Jouaneh, senior vice president and general manager at American Express Meetings & Events.
  1. Here Comes the But.

Meeting budgets are expected to increase by .8 percent in 2019, American Express Meetings and Events says. That’s better than nothing, but the increase is only a fraction of the 2.4 percent increase expected in hotel room rates. And with more meetings needing hotel rooms, costs will go up. “The challenge before planners is mastering this volume, while working with the reality of expenses increasing at a higher rate than meetings budgets,” says Jouaneh.
  1. A Word from Sponsors

Sponsorships pay for nice things at conferences, but what do the big spenders get out of it? That’s the question planners are being forced to answer. EventMB says 43 percent of planners are unable to prove sponsors’ return on investment. The same study says 53 percent of planners are struggling to sell sponsorships. There is “a growing tendency in our industry requiring more accountability for the money spent on events,” EventMB’s top 10 events trends report states.
  1. Down to Business

The International Congress and Convention Association, which has been tracking meetings for 55 years, says fewer attendees are coming to association meetings. Events including 50 to 249 participants comprise more than 60 percent of association meetings. But there are more meetings than ever, meaning the overall count for attendees is higher: about 25 million in the past five years.
  1. Training Days

The most common meetings are internal, specifically training sessions, according to the 2019 Global Meetings & Events Forecast. Such meetings are responsible for 30 percent of business gatherings in North America, the study finds.
  1. High Tech

Not surprisingly, tech meetings and events are the fastest growing sector. They make up to 14.4 percent of events now, only slightly below medical sciences, which hosts 16.6 percent of events, ICCA says. American Express Meetings & Events adds planners in North America expect product launches to increase by more than 1 percent this year.
  1. Smaller Cut

Marriott International shook the event’s industry by slashing third-party commissions from 10 percent to 7 percent. Hilton, InterContinental and Hyatt have since followed suit. A year later, at least 50 percent of planners are concerned with this new reality. “Commissions are a way for us to keep costs down for the program,” says Rachel Lunderborg, global director, solutions & analytics, CWT Meetings & Events. “The commission cuts will force the buyer to become more strategic to make up for these increased costs by looking at control management strategies. It’s really about negotiating hard over the business terms to make up the difference.”
  1. That’s Not Fair!

Planners looking to go to Europe for a meeting or incentive trip may start sounding like a grumpy toddler, CWT says. Hotel prices are projected to rise 5.6 percent, as capitals like London and Amsterdam are reporting 82 percent occupancy rates. Adding salt to the wound, the rise in rates matches what’s ahead for airfares.
  1. Boutique Boom

More than 5,300 new hotels are currently planned across the country, adding more than 630,000 room nights, Lodging Econometrics says. It’s not big-box properties of more than 500 rooms leading the boom; it’s boutiques. Leading the trend is New York, which has 32 hotels in the pipelines, well higher than second-place Nashville (20). CWT says 18,000 room nights will be introduced by 2020 as a $1.5 billion expansion continues on the Javits Center in Manhattan. The surge in room space has helped stabilize prices, making New York & Company’s job selling the Big Apple as easy as pie.
  1. Not a Dealbreaker

President Trump can certainly get people fired up, but the so-called Trump Effect may be more talk than action. In its report, “A View from Meeting Planners: Winning Strategies in Destination Marketing,” Development Counsellors International (DCI) reports 67 percent of its respondents says their plans to meet in the U.S. remain unchanged since the 2017 inauguration. The report adds only 20 percent of respondents said they were less likely to explore the U.S. for events since Trump took office.
  1. Ungender

As businesses work toward gender equality, some fashion lines are taking the next step by eliminating distinctions. Trend Hunter notes traditional “feminine" and "masculine” designations are being dropped for “gender-neutral” and “ungender.” Will corporate events follow suit? It may just be a matter of time.
  1. Security

Mass shootings happen far too frequently in this country, affecting everything from music festivals to church gatherings. As a sign of the times, 44 percent of DCI’s respondents say safety and security concerns keep them up at night. Seventy percent of those surveyed say safety should be a joint venture between the planner and host destination.
  1. Data Breaches

Marriott International’s announcement that 500 million Starwood guests had their data violated may the biggest hack job the hospitality industry has faced, but it’s not the only one. EventMB notes eight other breaches involved event and hotel technology before the Marriott hack. The risks will only rise when consider technological advancements (see below).
  1. New Kids on the Blockchain

You’ve heard of bitcoin, but how about blockchain? That’s the cryptology-infused technology being adopted to handle future currency. EventMB says the advent will help disarm scalpers for ticketed events, but as transactions are made digitally, it raises risks of identity theft and data breaches.
  1. It’s All About Experiences

Guess what: Event planners like to travel, too. DCI says 95 percent of planners say FAM trips are an important factor for deciding where to take events—up from 72 percent in a 2012 study. More than half of respondents say the time of year doesn’t matter while a majority says being with a group is preferred to a solo trip.
  1. Great Escapes

Escape rooms are where more and more groups are making a break for it. As such, brands like Audi and Snickers are building native advertising into their versions of escape rooms, which serve as a teambuilding exercises for many corporate groups. The Snickers Hunger Bunker was used as a pop-up in New York City to build exposure for new flavors.
  1. Coming Clean

The biggest F&B trend is clean eating. Chefs are even cleaning up desserts’ act by using largely unprocessed ingredients to make sweets a little less sinful.
  1. Pinkalicious

Young people are so in demand that there is a color dedicated to them: "Millennial pink." Already popular in branding and clothing items, the blush pink stands out as the primary color in food—King in New York City has a salad including pink lettuce (barring recall), ricotta, marjoram and walnuts and Angry Orchard Rose has a pink cider.
  1. Go-To Seeds

Trendhunter says watermelon seeds are the next superfood, and are also being used in fashion. Maybe mix the snack on with a fashion show for a little double-dipping.