Unrest, instability and whirlwinds in the past…
As we put the ibtm World Trends Watch Report to bed in the autumn of last year, myself and my co-author Dr. Rob Davidson reflected on years of unrest and industry trends for 2019.
A series of political, ecological and economical whirlwinds had struck every geography of the planet; from fires in the west coast of America, to humanitarian disaster in Syria and the Middle East; from Trump to Brexit, the French elections, to the escalation of rhetoric between the United States and North Korea.
The report focused on the growing ‘protectionism’ that was hitting key economies throughout the world, and the potential disaster this could wreck on key territories. However, this level of unrest was only unprecedented in that it continued a previous 12 months of unrest that started early in 2016; the report called this instability ‘the new normal’, one of the predictions in the report that has proved true as we revisit it again this year.
How about 2019?
As we entered 2019, it’s worth looking at how these global macro events affect specific territories. Certainly, in Europe, we have seen the instability of the EU become a constant theme.
Grexit seems a long way away, and Brexit is now in the headlines. Will negotiations reach a ‘cliff edge’ scenario, and what will this mean for the UK economy, both in terms of its place within the EU and also as one of the leading global economies? We saw the German and French elections add a degree of solidarity into the EU, but again, this looks to change in the wake of a global trade war, instigated by the US and directed at Canada, the EU (and more), but with the biggest implications to come from the dispute with China.
However, despite the doom and gloom, it’s difficult to ignore that global GDP has grown every year since 2016 and prediction are that this will continue into 2019, The World Economic Outlook by the IMF predicts 3.9 percent growth (Spring 2019).
Equally, we saw in the previous report that key industries that invest in meetings and events; Automotive, Banking & Finance, Pharma, Financial Services and Information & Communications Technology, were all not only growing healthily, but innovating in a way that was spurring the creation of new events, and event formats. If business grows, it looks after our sector, but when it innovates, pivots and increases its dynamism, our industry goes to an even better place. The theme for the report last year was ‘Taking Care of Business’, to reflect this trend.
The research included in the World Trends Report also considered ICCA statistics, and again these appear positive for both East and Western Europe, with top performing cities spread well across the region. Increased investment in infrastructure in emerging economies also points towards more growth in the East underlining the growing confidence in the region in what continues to be an exciting meetings and events industry.
However, and turning back to macro issues, it would be naive to think that just because the cyclical growth of the last two years continues to rise, that there are no gremlins coming over the horizon. Last year the IMF stated it was ‘guardedly optimistic’, this year the tone is one of ‘underlying threat’; despite the full range of global catastrophes that we’ve witnessed over the last few years, the trade war between the planet’s two biggest economies is predicted to cause more upheaval than any.
Will technology help?
This year we added in an additional section of the World Trends Report, which looked specifically at global technological innovation, and its impact on the events industry. As already stated, innovation is good for meetings and events, and we’ve benefited a lot from it. In Pharma, we’ve seen the increase in wearables, self-diagnosis, and nano-technology, all creating shifts in historically stable industries. We add in the almost relentless dynamism of the ICT sector and we see great opportunities for events. When things change, people need to communicate and that is what we do.
I look forward to delving deeper into wider technological issues within the report. However, one thing that almost any technology economist will tell you is, ‘that the more things change, the more they stay the same’. With this in mind, we should be minded that, in an unstable world, with unstable economies and market places, there are few things more definite than an event, and that when issues confront us, people need to get together.
Alistair Turner is Managing Director of EIGHT PR & Marketing, a specialist creative agency servicing the events industry and the co-author of the ibtm World trends Report. He has over 20 years experience in the PR industry, working across some of the biggest brands in FMCG, tourism and now the international events industry. Since entering the global events marketplace, Al has worked across the full range of events, from business conferences and exhibitions, through brand activations and into the sporting and festival industries. As an author of the World Trends Report, Alistair has been involved in articulating the direction and future movement of the global events industry and talks regularly with corporate organizers and third-party agencies on the long term outlook of major events. As an influencer within the media and representative of the events industry, he has also been involved in communication with the UK government; he was the secretariat for the All Party Parliamentary Group for Events, and project managed the groups Enquiry into the “International Competitiveness of the UK Events industry’. He has also been a government advisor on the 2012 London Olympics and the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games. Finally, he has been involved in ministerial briefings on the events industry at Secretary of State level and below. He was heavily involved with No.10 on its development of the ‘Britain is GREAT’ initiative, and the ‘Events are GREAT’ implementation of that campaign. Alistair is a regular speaker on the events industry at a number of international exhibitions, conferences and within the academic community, including universities. He is also a regular contributor to The Events Academy educational programs.