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Planner Priorities Revealed

A survey conducted by Northstar Meetings Group showcases planners’ top considerations for selecting destinations and sites for meetings and events this year

By Linden M. Bayliss

New data from Northstar Meetings Group shows meeting and event planners’ highest considerations for selecting locales. || Photo by Prathankarnpap, courtesy of Adobe

When it comes to destination and site selection for meetings and events, what are your biggest considerations? Recent survey results in First Look: Site-Selection Priorities–2024 and Beyond—released by Northstar Meetings Group, a subsidiary of Northstar Travel Media LLC based in Rutherford, New Jersey—asked this question among others and fielded responses from 408 professional meeting and event planners across the country. The data was collected from Feb. 7 to March 7 of this year to get a taste for which checklist items are top of mind for those deciding where to gather. Survey participants consisted of 40% independent or third-party planners, 32% in-house corporate planners, 22% association planners, and 2% incentive planners—the remaining 4% identified as “other.”

One of the biggest insights drawn from the data is that this year, perhaps not surprisingly, cost is king. Planners in 2024 are ranking cost as having a higher bearing on site selection than those surveyed in 2022, when the highest-ranking destination characteristic was the quality of meeting venues. Cost was the only characteristic that showed a significant increase from the previous survey, though a small uptick was also seen in the importance of activities and experiences. Rankings for the priority on quality meeting venues that topped the list in 2022 decreased by a significant amount compared with the previous survey, as did the importance of health and safety considerations.

Destination appeal can change quickly, data shows || Image by Jeff, courtesy of Adobe

When asked to rank the appeal of 30 destinations based on these criteria, the appeal of all 30 showed a decline when compared to data collected in 2022. 68% of respondents said the relative appeal of certain destinations has changed for them in the past two years, showing that perceptions of place can shift, and relatively quickly. While most respondents said that state legislation generally does not impact their decision to convene in certain destinations, 32% said it does play a role—most of the latter group says they would be especially likely to avoid booking states passing laws perceived as restricting rights as well as those with travel boycotts or warnings.

The last key point shown by the data is that planners find comfort in knowing folks at local destination management companies who can assist them with their event. Prior experience and personal relationships with a DMC were cited as more important considerations than previous experience with destination marketing organizations or hotels.