2021 AIPC Member Survey: Growing Trends in Convention Centres

6th Sep, 2021

Messe Wien Exhibition & Congress Center, one of the AIPC members.

The annual AIPC member survey provides the AIPC Community with unique insights on what is happening in convention centres worldwide. The detailed results of this year’s survey were presented at the AIPC Annual Conference and as a contribution to this very special edition of the HQ magazine, we wanted to share some of the key insights with the wider event industry.

The AIPC Member Survey report is a unique analysis, which continues to identify and track the impact of multi-year trends on the convention centre industry around the world. It has been developed by AIPC, in close collaboration with Access Intelligence. This year, the study focuses on the impact of the pandemic and – more importantly – on the steps taken to prepare for recovery and host in-person events and meetings again. Below, you will find a summary of the key insights from the new survey. 

After a very difficult period of pandemic and disruption, the AIPC membership has entered the industry reactivation and recovery phase. The pace of the industry re-start and recovery varies significantly around the world. And even as of mid-2021 some centres are still essentially closed, or are only partially open and working under significant attendance capacity restrictions. To say this has been a challenging period for the convention centre industry around the world would be a severe understatement. In fact, this has been a very severe time for the industry with no modern era comparison on such a global scale. 

While the events and meeting industry was essentially completely shut down for nearly a year around the world, the good news is there is well-documented evidence of major pent-up demand to get back to live, in-person events and gatherings both by businesses and general attendees/consumers. And the number of events and group meetings being held in AIPC member venues around the world is continuing to increase. That multiple vaccines have been developed that work extremely well is absolutely critical to starting the industry on the path to a sustainable recovery.

It may still be hard for some venue management teams and their destination marketing partners to imagine, but the outlook for the industry in 2022 -2024 and beyond is potentially strong. It is not out of the question that in three to five years, and maybe even before, the convention, exhibition and meetings industry could potentially enter another boom period similar to what was experienced from about 2014 to 2019. But clearly there is still at least another year ahead of disruption, challenges and new situations to navigate for the industry. 

The 2021 survey provided six key insights:

  1. Over 90% of AIPC members expect pandemic-related centre capacity restrictions to be lifted by 2022 – and over half expect to be fully open by the fall of 2021;
  2. Important client events and meetings held in 2021 have drawn 58% of pre-pandemic attendance levels;
  3. Nearly eight out of ten AIPC member centres are investing in new or upgraded audio-visual studio spaces and digital communications technologies;
  4. The biggest risks facing centres are the potential for extended government capacity restrictions, difficulty forecasting in-person event attendance levels, and event and group re-scheduling challenges;
  5. Forecasting in-person attendance and corporate travel restrictions are the top two challenges impacting centers' post-pandemic plans;
  6. Local corporate meetings are expected to be the strongest client segment over the next two years.

As shown in the research insights above, the survey provides a clear indication that, while the market outlook is still unbalanced and uncertain at this moment, convention centres are confident that business will pick up again. 

At the same time, the digital investments planned by centres and the outlook that local corporate events will be the growth engine over the next two years, indicate that the future industry will be a different type of business compared to the pre-pandemic era. In combination with the risks described above, it will require convention centres to remain agile, to adapt quickly to rapidly changing circumstances.

Doing so successfully will require talent at all levels. That is why AIPC launched its new talent programme – Future Shapers – during its 2021 Annual Conference. The goal of Future Shapers is to support the AIPC Community in attracting, growing and retaining talent. The free-of-charge 12-month elevated management programme will help train a small group of individuals to become a true community of future leaders, with all the skills needed to shape the future of venues.

At AIPC, we firmly believe the future of organised events is a bright one and that by embracing the changes ahead, the membership community will turn challenges into opportunities, and continue to innovate to better serve the event and meeting management industry and our diverse audiences around the world.  

Article kindly provided by AIPC - the International Association of Convention Centres. Authors: Sven Bossu, CEO AIPC, and Michael Hughes, Managing Director Research & Consulting, Access Intelligence.

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