September 15, 2008 09:01 ET

Coal in Your Stocking? Corporate Event Professionals Scaling Back Holiday Celebrations

New Survey From Agenda USA Finds 'Tis the Season to Be Frugal, as Tighter Budgets Mean Less Alcohol, Overall Cost Sensitivity

NORWALK, CT--(Marketwire - September 15, 2008) - The company holiday party, a fixture for decades in the corporate environment, is undergoing a sudden transformation based on changing economic realities. That's according to a just-released study by Agenda USA, producers of resource directories, an online venues-search tool, and live events for special-event and corporate-meeting planners.

Don't expect the same lavish décor as in years past or the same culinary options, according to the Agenda findings.

The Agenda survey polled 200 corporate event planners, independent meeting planners and association planners to coincide with the publication of Agenda's New York Holiday Preview issue, which provides planners with tips and ideas for planning their holiday events.

Overall, while many indicated the economy would have no effect on their holiday plans, 52 percent said their event would be scaled back in some manner and 7 percent went so far as to say their event would be canceled altogether. Forty-seven percent said their party budgets would be reduced this year.

"Professional event planners are in the business of pulling off great events that meet corporate objectives and stay within budgets, but the current climate is forcing them to stretch the envelope a bit," said Agenda Group Publisher Jim Alkon. "Lower spending levels and restrictive marching orders are forcing them to be more creative than ever."

Broken down by job title, corporate professionals took a slightly gloomier posture, with 13 percent saying their companies would cancel their holiday celebrations altogether; independent planners said they expect a scaling back by some 75 percent of their clients.

Interestingly, the Agenda survey indicates independent planners were bracing for tighter budget constraints from their clients (62%) compared with what corporate event planners were actually saying -- with 48 percent seeing lower budgets for their holiday parties. Of that 48 percent, 18 percent of the corporate planners were expecting considerably lower budgets.

The primary type of venue for holiday events reported by all categories was restaurants, at 39 percent, followed by hotel space (30%) and dedicated event space (28%). Even less popular were companies using corporate offices.

Restaurants were clearly the venue of choice of the independent planners (64%) and associations (50%), with mansions and museums -- at 41 percent -- also being used significantly by independents on behalf of their clients.

In terms of cost-cutting measures being implemented or considered, corporations' foremost tactic, according to the survey, is to offer a more cost-sensitive menu (48%), followed by less lavish décor (32%) and a less expensive venue (29%). Independents and associations also confirmed that menu selection was driving their cost-saving initiatives, and 36 percent of those pointed firmly to a reduction in alcohol or alcohol options.

About Agenda

Agenda is part of Red 7 Media's Event Group, which includes Event Marketer, Event Design and EXPO magazines, as well as the Event Marketing Institute and the Experiential Marketing Summit. Agenda produces directories in New York, Boston, Washington, Chicago and California, as well as a National Venues Guide.

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