Wagonlit Travel claims to have recorded 40 percent growth in sales volume this
year for its Meetings & Events division, including a doubling of business
in France, Germany, Brazil, the United Kingdom and the United States. Hervé
Joseph-Antoine, CWT vice president for meetings and events in Europe, the
Middle East and Africa, said the company's meetings division hired 200 people
this year as business improved "by two to three times the rate of
GDP." He spoke to BTN contributing
editor Amon Cohen about the reasons for improvement, indications of more
cautious spending ahead and accelerating adoption of meetings technology in
To what do you attribute the increase in business?
We have been talking for a long time about consolidation, and the market is really changing now. We are seeing a variety of models of consolidation. Companies which used 50 to 70 meetings agencies worldwide are reducing to four or five, and those which had four or five in one country are consolidating to just one. The smaller players are losing market share, and in many cases companies are awarding all their meetings management to their travel management company and leaving only the content of the individual events to local agencies. We are also seeing some international meetings agencies which are not TMCs gaining ground, but there are only a few of them.
Have clients’ requirements changed?
Yes. Two to three years ago at EIBTM [an annual global meetings and events exhibition], we were talking to meeting planners from client companies or their agencies. Now we see a lot of procurement people there. There is much more expectation to manage meetings from a strategic sourcing perspective. Since 2009, they have become very serious about ensuring compliance for events.
What trends are you experiencing in bookings for 2012?
We see clients taking a much more cautious approach. Looking at confirmed meetings for the first half of 2012, 60 percent are domestic, compared with 70 percent for the second half of 2011. Duration of events is stable at 2.9 days, but spend per attendee has decreased 5 percent to 6 percent. The environment is fragile, which could lead to a lot of cancellations, so we are seeing shorter booking lead times and customers are looking for more flexible terms and conditions.
What do you think 2012 will bring for meetings intermediaries?
We think there will be more market consolidation. There will probably be more acquisitions, joint ventures and partnerships.
Will that include CWT?
We made some acquisitions in 2008-09. Since then, our growth has been organic. As for next year, we are talking to the marketplace, but we want to see how the economy develops.
Are you seeing mounting evidence of meeting and transient travel spend integration?
Maturity is increasing. We are at the point where synergies really mean something now. From a sourcing perspective, companies are consolidating their spend with hotels and getting good overlap. Even if a client is only using a hotel ad hoc for events, its transient travel spend is allowing it to obtain better rates. That is a real change.
What are the trends in meetings technology?
It is on the increase. We have long seen high adoption rates in North America, but now it is growing in EMEA, Asia/Pacific and Latin America because the meetings technology providers have improved their language capabilities and their presence in-market. We now have 150 regular users of third-party meetings booking technology in EMEA, and within six months we will have many more because there is a lot of training going on. It is a very big change.