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Mice Net : December 2008
news business events slowdown hits CanCellations, postponements, slashed budgets, and a slowdown in new job placements are already a reality in the business events industry here and globally. A November web-based survey by mice.net resulted in an outpouring from all sectors of the business events community, with the majority of individuals, companies and venue operators reporting business was down for the remainder of 2008, and 2009 was looking softer than anticipated. And, despite some reports that the association sector is immune to any economic downturn, there are areas that will be affected, particularly relating to event sponsorship of association-operated events. Similarly, consumer exhibitions are also expected to be hit, with consumers watching discretionary spending on non-essentials. On the employment front, Event Recruitment’s John Hackett reports he has heard of a handful of instances of staff being retrenched as a result of cost-cutting. “I think this has been mainly due to fears of falling revenue in the year ahead rather than a definite loss of client business,” he said. “The commercial conference companies say they will likely do it tough with a view that less paying delegates will attend/less sponsorship dollars will be won, and some of those have begun retrenching staff as a result (much of this being driven by overseas parent companies). It seems it is business as usual for in-house event organisers although there has been a mixed response with some talk of staff freezes and others confirming they will be recruiting. “I think the employment market will likely remain subdued until February 2009 when I expect to see some sort of upswing as we would expect after the Christmas holiday period, although the magnitude of this will depend on how economic conditions are perceived at that time. Fingers crossed and I remain positive!” Event specialist Rhona Walker, managing director of Solution RED, told mice.net in September her company had a forecast of achieving beyond budget for the second quarter, and will now fall short of those targets. 4 mice.net “Yes there have been cancellations rather than reductions in budgets. We have had clients cancel events and meetings for 2009 - events and meetings that had been planned and booked for some months.” Ms Walker reports a 50 per cent cutback in fortnightly meetings and monthly events by the finance sector. “In past experience, [the] early 90’s, the downturn in our industry was short lived or more to the point, adjustments were minimal,” Ms Walker said. “Back then money was poured into events with a view face-to- face selling [was more effective] rather than media exposure. While companies regard the economic downturn as a time to eliminate training, retrench sales teams and micro-manage, the effect is long- term!” Entertainer David Welzman of Welzman & Associates reported he had eight cancellations from October this year but was up-beat about the long-term future, believing business would bounce back strongly in 2009. Hamilton Island business tourism manager, Justine Salame, said business had softened for the remainder of 2008, however, there were still plenty of large group enquiries for 2009. “We didn’t get the normal last minute pick up for the end of this year which was very, very surprising - not one last minute piece of business when normally we are swamped with last minute groups for October, November and December,” she said. “We certainly aren’t doing the same number of quotes - we are behind last year’s figures in enquiries. We had one group cancel in November due to the financial crisis. “We’re just riding the wave and getting through as best we can with a positive attitude!” So too is managing director of Sheraton on the Park, Sean Hunt, who says despite his sales team receiving the same level of enquiries