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Home » News » Trump Victory to Change Vertical Markets for USA Conferences

Some industries will rise, others will decline

Love him or loathe him, Donald Trump will soon be sworn in as the 45th President of the United States.

Watching the election closely almost all analysts and pundits were taken off guard by the surprise election of Donald Trump. A “brexit on steroids”, the middle class white folk of America’s heartland have stood up and spoken out against elitism and the impact that globalisation is having on their lifestyles. Right or wrong, agree or disagree, it is the voice at the heart of a Trump victory.

So as the election hype settles, and the administration takes shape, what does this mean from a business events industry and destination marketing agencies, what is going to change?

The Global Industry Development Network (GIDN) has never focussed on the business events industry as a tourism sector, we largely work with economic development agencies or Convention Bureaus and Convention Centres with the same ideology. Our focus has always been on conferences as a tool for economic and social development, with tourism as a flow on benefit of conferencing, not the driver.  GIDN achieves this through our EPIAA Model for Business Development, a focus where we align the economic, political, industry, academic and association’s objectives of a city with those of International Associations. The results are about having conferences in the right city at the right time, based on need and desire.

To understand and changes we need to look at some of the drivers of the business events industry, and consider what Donald Trump has said and the impact this could have.

Association Conferences in this situation could be thought of in three ways. National US Associations and International Association conferences coming into the USA, and those coming out of the USA.  

The impact on National associations and their conferences will not be about numbers of meetings, or how meetings are hosted, or even delegate numbers, these will likely just carry on as normal, even the rotational and booking model won’t be impacted. The main change will be about the purpose of the conference, their programing and approach to lobbying for their industry, and the need to build new relationships and reposition, with his new “drain the swamp” promise for Washington, it is going to make a lot of Associations need to engage with and lobby the administration like never before.

This aspect will be un-noticeable to many Convention Bureaux across the US, as it will be managed by the Association or consultants.

The more noticeable impact will be on sponsorships and exhibitors, profitability of the event, and this will vary across the vertical markets, with some industries benefiting from the changes in policy, whilst others will be operating in industries with increased budget cuts. This is standard with a change in administration, and is not something that will be exclusive to a Trump administration, the only aspect that will be is the significance to industry cuts. Expect renewable energy conferences to suddenly have less access to funds, whilst conferences involved with the coal industry will be back on the agenda and revitalised!

The impact of International Associations and their conferences will be more intense, whilst still different and varied by vertical market, with some positive and some negative.

Firstly in attracting international associations to the USA, the decision making process for international associations usually involves a local host from the USA bidding for the international conference, inviting them to come to the USA. Local host committees may face increased opposition from decision makers on boards or committees, especially if the views of the Trump administration are conflicting to the person’s personal beliefs, or that of the association. The impact of social views of the Association itself will be taken into account, and this could go either way. Just like mental health conferences avoiding casino’s, some associations may avoid the USA so as to not reward the USA or to avoid punishing some of their own members, such as those from Muslim backgrounds or those with heavy Chinese or Hispanic involvement. Visa restrictions will also come to play if any sort of restrictions are put on Muslims, effectively restricting a huge portion of the international community from travel.   

That said, on the positive side for destination marketing agencies, or those attracting conferences to the USA, there are going to be industry associations who see the potential for their members in some of the positions taken by Trump administration. If an association’s member are commercially focussed, they will see Trump as an opportunity, for those associations focussed on social aspects, the view of going to the USA, and the knowledge there is less sponsorship and Government support, is going to be challenging.    

Trump has talked about rebuilding infrastructure, about revitalising manufacturing, and about greater focus on American goods. Being the world’s largest consumer market, with 24% of the global market, and 71% of GDP linked to consumer goods and services, the USA are the number one consumers. There are going to be associations involved with manufacturing, with industry, with certifications and training, which will undoubtedly see the USA as an opportunity, and one they need to be a part of.

On this line of thinking, the Trump administration may make the USA more appealing for industry associations and some vertical markets, like infrastructure, technology, and manufacturing conferences, building and construction, finance, architecture, high tech conferences and others, whilst possibly less so for some of the professional associations where moral values trump financial motives.

When we think of corporate meetings, GIDN sees this sector increasing with a need to meet more than ever. The usual Annual General Meetings and internal conferences will carry on as normal, whilst other meeting types such as sales meetings or end user group meetings will become more important and more necessary than ever.

This is a similar trend GIDN has seen from the Brexit, with an increase in outbound corporate meetings from the UK as new markets in India, Australia, Canada and others are developed and increased, and likewise with inbound business as companies work to develop their relationships with the UK outside of Europe.   

With a promise to tear up trade deals and renegotiate, with his strong opposition to globalisation, companies are going to be monitoring the impact of this.  

But how likely is Trump to deliver on his promises? That is the million dollar question, and how is he likely to achieve these? Let’s look at one, Trump has promised to focus on improving manufacturing locally, how would he do this?

Largely through imposing tariffs on imports, making the cost of buying locally much more appealing. Will this work? Probably, because the Republicans are likely to control the House of Representatives, the Senate, and the Executive.  

This would mean there would be more jobs created but there is always the cost factor. It is our view that Trump will simply move to have all Government infrastructure projects use US products and companies who don’t outsource their manufacturing and products overseas, and so forcing the hand of companies to move back into the USA, although opting for high tech rather than labour intensive.  In addition for private projects the introduction of tariffs will then aim to make it more cost effective to use US companies, in comparison to importing.

Some areas will undoubtedly be on the way out, particularly in the social areas or traditional left policies, such as healthcare. Obamacare will undoubtedly be removed, and replaced with something “so much better, so much better, so much better”.

The US dollar could make it more or less attractive to travel to the US, another factor needing monitoring.  

Corporate meetings correlate with markets and trade routes. So this is the area that could get the most exciting and have the most areas of change and potential.  

With this “everything needs to be renegotiated” mentality, industry leaders are going to scramble to ensure their sector does not lose out and are the winners in Trump’s policies.

 Trump plans to put an axe through the Trans Pacific Partnership, a free trade agreement covering much of the Asia.  

The business events market will continue to be strong for the USA, and will equally present the same strength in outbound business. The changes will be about what industries are now strong, and access to sponsorships.  

Like all change, this is going to be a change in where we focus our marketing and sales efforts. We will brief our association clients and get them ready for lobbying and for some it will be about engaging with a new wave of sponsorship opportunities, whilst for others it will be about cutting back and preparing for the reduction in available funds.   

Association conferences will be stronger in those vertical markets where there is a strong business case, construction, technology, defence, and so on. There will be less opportunity in those fields the Trump administration don’t see as their top priorities, such as healthcare and climate change.

Corporate meetings will continue and likely increase in activity due to their correlation to markets and trade routes, but the source markets of where they will come from will change. Everyone who currently is involved with the USA will want to ensure their industry or company is in market and building relationships, and positioning for success.

Trading between the US and Mexico or Cuba or China will be impacted, with less of a need for corporate meetings, whilst new source markets open up such as through the normalisation of ties with Russia, the growth with ties with India, and new opportunities with the United Kingdom, in particular Britain.

Donald Trump is positioning himself for renegotiating everything he wants to from an “Art of the deal” perspective, a strategy used in negotiation is to put your opponent on the back foot, where you hold more of the cards, and they need you and are willing to pay for it. Donald Trump is no doubt playing the game.

We anticipate a cooling of the rhetoric from the election campaign, and a less fiery Trump appearing as he moves from campaigning to administration.

Conferences are more than just meetings, they are powerful tools for economic and social development. One thing is for sure, business events will play a vital role in reshaping America over the coming 4 years.

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