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Shards of optimism for 2017 revealed in ibtm world Industry Trends Report

Report cites quiet optimism for year ahead as planners report flat budgets and cost-cutting actions

Pictured: ibtm world 2016

Incentive travel budgets have increased over the past year, but not by much, according to the newly released ibtm world Industry Trends Report. 

Exactly half of those surveyed reported no significant change in budget from the previous year, with many citing cost-cutting actions including planning shorter trips, booking off-season and avoiding five-star resorts and venues.

Meanwhile, recent events in Cuba may go a long way to boost the country's already commanding position on the list of emerging incentive travel destinations. While US tourists are currently banned from visiting the Caribbean island, the country is open to business travellers including incentive trips, a decision boosted by the US government's decision to allow eight US airlines permission to launch non-stop flights from 10 US airports to Havana.

Cuba has moved up the list from third place last year and is followed by Panama, Costa Rica, Colombia and Iceland.

Security remains high on the meeting planners´ agenda but countries such as Belgium, France and Germany are still holding strong positions on the list of top ten countries most popular for international association meetings.

The forecast for Europe in 2017 looks bright with ongoing infrastructure developments pointing towards continued optimism within the industry, key examples being the recently inaugurated La Nuvola convention centre and hotel in Rome and the Lublin & Region convention bureau in Poland.

The Middle East´s flagship destination Dubai has benefited from its rapid expansion in air travel capacity that saw growth of 14.6 per cent in the first five months of 2016. This growth now sees Emirates operate 126 flights weekly from the UAE into the UK.

Africa continues to present a mixed picture as insecurity and political instability afflict the north, while oil producing countries such as Nigeria and Angola are experiencing a significant slowdown in growth. While the overall economic forecast presented in the report errs on the side of optimism, with noted focus on emerging markets, India in particular, who, it is generally believed, will play an increasingly vital role in industry growth.

Less optimistic are the concerns surrounding Brexit and worries surrounding future EU exit contagion, Italy´s ongoing banking crisis and China´s unsustainable debt burden. Add to this the fall in oil prices and the impact of rising US interest rates, especially in the first quarter of 2017 and the Advito industry forecast begins to look bleak.

On the flipside of this, US-based conference organisers have jumped at the chance to lock in lower rates for their large events for years ahead. London & Partners has received 66 per cent more enquiries from US organisers than at the same time last year. Domestic operators meanwhile are facing the immediate concerns that come with a devalued pound and the higher costs of key inputs for meetings and events in the form of transportation and F&B.

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