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Phone: (703) 908-0707
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President's Message 2011
Thursday, February 03 2011On behalf of the entire IMN Solutions staff, I want to express my best wishes for a Happy New Year to all of our valued clients, partners and friends. 2010 has been a busy year for all of us and I look forward to this opportunity to reflect on both challenges and achievements, and to update you on recent developments within our company and our industry.
For the third year in a row, ongoing economic realities require that my message be tempered with cautious optimism and hopes for better days to come for many of our clients and friends in the non-profit sector. Over the holidays, I have had the opportunity to speak with many of you and I am always reminded of and inspired by the great work you do for your organizations and how privileged we are at IMN Solutions to be working with such talented and capable professionals. The recurring theme? Once again, many of you have made additional professional and personal sacrifices in 2010, and worked harder and longer than in the past to ensure the stability of your organizations.
A glimmer of hope? Recent economic data suggests that conditions are starting to improve in our industry, although we have all learned recently that such data doesn't always equate with conditions in real life! Nevertheless, the trends are definitely toward growth and improvement in 2011 and I'm pleased to be able to share this information, some of my personal thoughts on recent industry news, future growth opportunities for our clients and some exciting new developments here at IMN Solutions.
Industry Trends 2010-2011
According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, the recession "officially" ended in June 2009. However, from the perspective of many association leaders I have spoken with, there seems to be little to show for this supposed improvement in the economy - organizational budgets remain extremely tight, association staffs continue to deliver programs with reduced personnel, and members are very selective when deciding which meetings to attend – carefully considering the value of time spent out of the office.
On the meetings side, industry reports suggest that a hospitality-industry rebound began in early 2010. Hotel occupancy levels are expected to show increases of 3.7% in 2010 over 2009 and 2.5% in 2011 over 2010, according to the STR Global ALIS Summer Update published in June 2010. While hotel room rates dropped by 8.8% from its high point in 2008 to year-end 2009, rates are expected to increase an average of 3.9% in 2011 over 2010.
Even more telling – revenue per available room (or RevPAR) is expected to increase 6.5% in 2011 over 2010 (source: STR Global ALIS Summer Update). These statistics support what my team and I are hearing from our hotel partners – that hotel owners, who were happy to fill rooms at discounted rates during the recession, will be pushing rates strongly in 2011 and being more selective in the business they accept. In addition, owners are no doubt aware of an impending supply/demand imbalance as statistics on the hotel construction pipeline promise a more limited supply of hotel rooms for association planners: In Q1 and Q2 of 2009, there were 45,000 hotel rooms under construction from 447 hotel projects; fast-forward to Q1 and Q2 for 2010 and those numbers had dropped significantly, to 21,500 rooms from 225 hotel projects.
I would call that a mixed bag of news for our clients. An improving economy is obviously good for everyone, but the hospitality sector clearly will be aggressive in 2011. That presents challenges to most non-profit organizations, which may not see strong growth in their bottom lines in the near term. Fortunately, many of our clients have heeded our advice over the past two years to extend booking cycles, confirm multi-year contracts, etc. to take advantage of the buyer's market. According to Bill Hudson, President & CEO of Global Cold Chain Alliance, the meeting contracts that were secured during the recession will look even better in the years to come. "We followed IMN's lead in aggressively pursuing future year bookings when the price point was down. Coupled with an improving economy, I would expect our attendance to grow by 10%-15% over the next couple of years."
Our take is that the window on those opportunities still exists, but will be closing fast. I would strongly urge our clients to move quickly with their IMN Solutions account representative to secure preferred dates for future meetings to ensure availability and the best-possible contract terms. As I see it, from now through June is the window of opportunity.
The data from the tradeshow industry is also encouraging after two years of decline (source – Society of Independent Show Organizers):
• The tradeshow industry declined by 10%-13% from mid-2008 through Q1 2010 (when gains began to be seen).
• Indices are showing buyer attendance has grown at U.S. tradeshow by 2%-7% since Q1 of 2010.
When buyers come back, then so do exhibitors – again, a positive sign for our industry and our clients who depend on their tradeshows as a key source of non-dues revenues. Other trends, according to SISO, show more lag time in exhibitor commitments. In the past, upwards of 85% of exhibits for next year's show would be sold at the current show. The trend now is for exhibitors to wait for last minute discounts, also a trend with attendance overall, making it difficult to manage room blocks. As you already know, this is part of the value IMN Solutions brings to the table – renegotiating contracts, re-working room blocks and helping to ensure the success of your programs and reducing risk in a volatile economy.
Another important note to keep in mind: The new generation of tradeshow attendees are changing the way planners market and manage. Younger attendees utilize technology to enhance and maximize their experience and time away from the office. Therefore, tradeshow managers who can integrate social media and virtual communications strategies can successfully communicate with their attendees and supplement revenues year-round.
The consensus seems to be that our industry is showing signs of improvement, yet the recovery, much like in many other sectors of our economy, will be slow. It appears we've weathered the worst of it together and my team and I are excited and energized to face new challenges in 2011 head on and work closely with our clients to achieve their goals this year and beyond.
IMN Solutions Management Projects Helpful to Clients
As part of IMN Solutions full-service meetings and management offerings, IMN Solutions engages with client organizations that are seeking outside assessments, audits, and project services to help streamline association procedures, develop new policies, or simply look at new ways of doing things. Many of these projects are headed up by our Vice President of Association Services, Lawson Hockman. Over the past year, Lawson provided these management consulting services to several IMN Solutions clients.
According to Lawson, an assessment doesn't always mean making changes, but creates an atmosphere where new ideas are accepted. "I think associations can sometimes become resistant to change. Within the IMN network, we see many different management styles and structures so we can share these ideas and alternatives with other clients and help them look at new ways of doing things in their own organizations."
As a result of one assessment, a client determined that the tradeshow component of their meeting may only be necessary every other year – so the association can focus one year on education and training, and on vendor products and services the next. Lawson is currently heading up another project for a new client organization, whereby IMN Solutions will be partnering with a technology provider to develop an enhanced management information system for the association. These are just two examples of the scope of capabilities of our growing company and the expertise of our staff – should you be interested in an assessment or other management project, please do not hesitate to contact your IMN Solutions account director or me directly.
More on the sale of Convene Green Alliance to ASAE
I would like to thank many of our clients, members and friends for their support and kind comments regarding the sale of the CGA organization to ASAE late last year (click here for the ASAE press release). In reality, this was the Power of the Network at its finest – demonstrating the strength and influence of our clients and members in creating the leading eco-focused organization in our industry in under 3 years.
The other reality is that CGA grew faster and gained more influence than we had originally anticipated. Our marketing plan called for expansion to other association markets (Chicago, New York. Los Angeles and Europe), which would have required significant and immediate investments in resources (both financial and human) to realize quickly and properly. ASAE, as the industry leader of associations, recognized the value of the CGA and our members and saw that the CGA would be an integral part of a more aggressive social responsibility initiative. These factors came together at the same, and right time and this move gives the CGA the best chance to expand quickly, while not disturbing IMN Solutions from its core mission, servicing our client's needs – especially when our clients need us the most.
In the end, ASAE is uniquely prepared to grow and expand on the CGA mission to promote eco-friendly practices in our industry and I have no doubt they will do exactly that. Of course, IMN Solutions will continue to support the CGA under ASAE's management and I urge all CGA members to continue to do so as well.
AIMC Poised for Busy Year
As many of you know, we rebranded the Alliance for International Meetings and Commerce (AIMC) with the aim of supporting our clients and the association community at large by providing networking and education opportunities targeting global growth and expansion for the non-profit sector. Steve Doyle, Executive Vice President & CEO, founding member and Past Chairman of AIMC explains "As associations continue to expand globally AIMC is the vehicle and bridge in our industry to educate and manage the blending of international organizations and vendors into a worldwide network. This network will enhance membership development, global meetings, sponsorships, as well as diplomatic and commerce opportunities for the non-profit community."
As with CGA, we see major advantages in a venture with ASAE to expand the reach and capabilities of this global effort. To support this partnership, we will be very active in ASAE's 2011 International Conference in Washington D.C. (March 30-April 1).
Stay tuned for updates to come shortly on these exciting developments – our mission for AIMC is to harness the Power of the Network and to help associations expand globally in the same way that CGA helped associations go green!
Again, please accept my best wishes for health, happiness and prosperity in 2011. One thing I am sure of....The Power of the Network has never been stronger, thanks to you. My staff and I are optimistic about the New Year ahead, and greatly appreciate your business, your loyal friendship, and the trust you put in IMN Solutions.