Meeting Mentor Magazine

May 2024

Get Ready to Brace for These Headwinds

While most planners are expecting their in-person attendance to grow over the next three years, soaring costs, destination selection being impacted by an increasingly volatile political environment, and other headwinds remain.

Shorter booking windows? Check. Soaring costs? Check. Staffing issues? Check. An unwillingness to negotiate on the part of hotel partners? Check. And those are just some of the headwinds meeting and event planners say they are facing even as their attendance continues to swell, according to a new report commissioned by Future Partners, a travel, tourism and hospitality consultant.

“Shorter booking windows both for planners and attendees as well as heightened expectations for live events make the evolving job of meeting planners challenging,” says Erin Francis Cummings, President and CEO of Future Partners. The objective behind this new research, she added, was to develop a deeper understanding of the value CVBs can provide meeting planners and identify ways they can work together towards the ultimate success of the destination and event. “Treating the relationship like a true partnership with proactive solutions, responsiveness and an inclusive attendee-experience mindset makes all the difference.”

Among the key findings of the research:

• Almost a quarter of planners said they thought their power to negotiate with hotels was declining. While this is down 11% year over year, it’s still the top area planners worry will continue to deteriorate in the future.

• Rising food and beverage costs have planners scrambling to find new ways to economize, including sourcing boutique event centers instead of hotels for their meetings and events. More than three-quarters, 77%, said they are open to considering sourcing new U.S. destinations they hadn’t considered before. This was especially true for third parties, sports event organizers and social, military, educational, religious and fraternal (SMERF) planners.

• Declining service levels at hotels have been an issue for planners since the pandemic, and, according to 17% of those surveyed, they expect this trend to continue over the next three years. A full 81% said hotel/meeting facility service levels heavily influenced their destination selection, along with hotel quality and rates.

• More than 61% said they expected their destination selection will increasingly be impacted by local politics. More than half said controversial issues caused planners to rethink their destination choices. Given these results, it’s not surprising that nearly two-thirds said they agreed with the statement, “A destination must align with our members’ values in order to host our meetings/events.”

On the plus side for planners, 61% of the surveyed planners said they expect attendance for their in-person events to increase over the next three years, which is 16% more than said the same last year. Also on the rise is the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) of both attendees and speakers, green practice certifications and corporate social responsibilities initiatives being incorporated into meeting agendas.

On the plus side for CVBs, 84% of planners said they plan to use their host destination marketing organization (DMO) in the next 12 months. These organizations can help ease some of the planner pain points, the report found.

“This year’s study really underscores a transformative trend in the meetings industry: the growing need for events to resonate with attendees’ values on every level,” says Mya Surrency, Founder of Digital Edge. “By fostering strong relationships with DMOs, planners can lean on the destinations’ expertise in navigating the challenges in the market to produce events that are not just successful, but also meaningful.”

For more information and results, download the full report here.

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About ConferenceDirect
ConferenceDirect is a global meetings solutions company offering site selection/contract negotiation, conference management, housing & registration services, mobile app technology and strategic meetings management solutions. It provides expertise to 4,400+ associations, corporations, and sporting authorities through our 400+ global associates.

About MeetingMentor
MeetingMentor, is a business journal for senior meeting planners that is distributed in print and digital editions to the clients, prospects, and associates of ConferenceDirect, which handles over 13,000 worldwide meetings, conventions, and incentives annually.

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