2008 kicks off with UK agencies expanding their overseas reach. World Events opens its first European mainland office in Amsterdam, Zibrant announces plans to open an office in Malaysia and Grass Roots Group launches in India.
The UK-based acquisitions that characterised 2007 continue, with Motivcom purchasing Protravel and Protravel TB, Meeting Makers acquiring SAS Event Management and Fresh snapping up Full Fat Media.
The credit crunch rears its head, with Fortis putting on hold its Swiss incentive. But in the UK, business continues to flourish, with big brands dishing out large accounts. Nestle UK appoints Conference Care to handle venue finding, Ford of Britain hires Skybridge, and Royal & Sun Alliance appoints Grass Roots to run an incentive to Antarctica.
However, when C&IT unveils its largest Agency Survey to date, the 51 participating agencies anticipate that the looming recession will be the industry's biggest challenge of the year. At the Eventia International Awards, Adding Value claimed the coveted Platinum Award for its work with Vodafone.
The second quarter is marked by the movements of a host of industry figures. Leigh Butterfield leaves Skybridge after a decade and is snapped up by The Finishing Touch. Grass Roots managing director Rik Burrage retires after 22 years with the business. Sadly, just two months later, he passes away. The industry also mourns the loss of Creative Travel & Event Management co-founder Tony Bosel. THA director John Hooker moves into consultancy work and Switzerland Convention & Incentive Bureau manager (meetings and incentives) Caroline Phillips announces plans to work for the Swiss CIB in New York.
While credit crunch fears intensify, with the likes of Pricewaterhousecoopers predicting a fall in hotel occupancy rates as corporate budgets tighten, the industry battles on. Barclays expands its annual event programme, and agencies including Motivcom record profit growth.
CSR is still on the radar, illustrated by the launch of standardised hotel carbon emissions index system Carepar. Elsewhere, a subsidiary of ADNEC purchases Excel London and C&IT recognises the industry's most influential figures in its 2008 Power 50.
Agencies show their faith in the industry by investing in acquisitions and overseas openings. MCI acquires Indian agency Megaron, and THA unveils plans to open offices in Paris, Barcelona, Munich and Milan. United Drug merges Procon and Universal CIT, while the Concerto Group unites Eventwise and Concerto:Live to form one enterprise under the Eventwise banner.
C&IT launches its inaugural Brand Book, a showcase of 100 brands and their event strategies and unveils a new website with daily news, forums and video content on C&IT TV. Meanwhile, BT is among 2008's most controversial brands, with its widely criticised events roster pitch that reportedly involved some 130 agencies.
Overseas, the Austrian National Tourist Office announces plans to cut its global C&I presence by dismantling its Austrian Business and Convention Network.
Back in the UK, Patrick Collins becomes Eventia chairman, Land Rover launches a sustainable events strategy, and Pfizer disbands its UK events team.
The BT roster saga drags on, as C&IT reveals it has rostered a whopping 42 agencies. Other brands in the news include Eglue and Colt Telecommunications - which are among seven organisations to hand accounts to World Events - and Lexus and Shell, which appoint Opus. In the automotive sector, BMW makes redundant four of its events staff as it restructures its marketing department.
Reed Travel Exhibitions adds another international trade show to its portfolio, with the AIBTM to be held in Baltimore in 2010. Meanwhile, C&IT heads to EIBTM to unveil its first-ever multi-lingual, pan-European version of the magazine.
The UK heads towards a recession and national banks come under fire for staging "extravagant" corporate events while staff are laid off. At the C&IT Corporate Forum, a number of event planners from financial firms express concerns about their budgets going into 2009. But despite the year ending on an uncertain note, buyers continue to remain optimistic about the strength of the industry.