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Meeting Professionals Cautious But Optimistic, Survey Shows

While only a fraction of meeting planners expect the economy to improve within the next six months, the number is rising, suggests the Meeting Professionals International (MPI) Foundation, which this week released the results of its latest MPI Business Barometer, a quarterly survey of meetings industry attitudes and trends.

Conducted in October, the Business Barometer found that only 12 percent of meeting professionals expect the state of the economy and their industry to improve by the second quarter of 2010. While low, that number is a substantial increase over the previous Business Barometer, which found in August that only 3 percent of meeting professionals anticipated economic improvement.

Also rising is the number of meeting professionals reporting a favorable business climate, as 19 percent of Business Barometer survey respondents said current business conditions are favorable. That's up from 15 percent in August and 13 percent in June.

Despite growing optimism among some, however, pessimism persists in others, suggests the survey, which found that 10 percent of meeting professionals continue to acknowledge poor economic conditions as being very influential on current industry conditions. Although that's an increase from 6 percent in August, the news is not necessarily bad.

"Though the representation has increased," the MPI Foundation cautioned, "there was not a general belief expressed that conditions are worsening further. Instead, poor economic conditions are often described as ongoing or continuing, rather than worsening."

One bright spot identified by the October Business Barometer was the apparent quieting of public criticism directed at the meetings industry, as only 6 percent of meeting professionals cited "poor perception/coverage of meetings" as a trend affecting the industry, compared to 15 percent in August.

"The increase in guarded optimism has replaced concerns over the public perception of meetings as the most often mentioned current influence on the meetings and events industry," the MPI Foundation concluded.

Other key Business Barometer findings:

• 19 percent of survey respondents said their organization's current meetings business conditions are better than they were at this time last year, while 18 percent said they were the same and 63 percent worse.

• 63 percent of survey respondents said rising travel costs have forced them to change the way they do business, either significantly or moderately.

• The industry's strongest meeting segment, according to survey respondents, is the domestic association market, followed by domestic corporations and government.

• Two-thirds of survey respondents said meeting attendance is down compared to this time last year.

• 60 percent of survey respondents said their spending on meetings is down compared to this time last year.

— Nielsen Business Media