The meetings and events industry has faced its fair share of ups, downs, and everything in between since early 2020. There have been lessons learned, approaches changed, and flexibility fostered to keep moving ahead during the pandemic. Let’s take a quick look at what to expect for 2023 through the lens of the 12th annual Global Meetings & Events Forecast, produced by American Express Meetings & Events, a division of American Express Global Business Travel.
Information was gathered through interviews with industry leaders and a survey of 580 meeting planners, air suppliers, and hoteliers in 23 countries. The survey and interviews took place from May to June 2022.
Key findings from respondents include optimism about the health of the industry heading into 2023 (77%); belief that the number of in-person events will return to pre-pandemic levels within one to two years (67%); and overall spending is increasing for 2023 (67%). Also, internal and smaller meetings are already exceeding 2019 levels in some regions.
Several of the meetings that I attend each year have returned to fairly “normal” in-person levels, and this rang true in the survey as well. Survey respondents anticipate that in-person meetings and the number of event attendees at those gatherings will increase across the board in 2023, with 87% of meetings expected to have an in-person component. After two years of remote and hybrid arrangements, respondents expressed growing virtual fatigue.
Internal meetings continue to have the highest priority as organizations see face-to-face interactions as key to improving productivity, connecting teams, reducing turnover, and attracting top talent. Only 32% of internal meetings are expected to be held on corporations’ properties, with 40% being held in a different city from the office and 45% including overnight accommodation for attendees.
Sustainability & DE&I
Commitment to sustainability and incorporating diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) into meetings and events are priorities for meeting professionals. Four in five respondents (80%) say their organization takes sustainability into account when planning events, with 76% of that group indicating their organizations have a defined sustainable meetings program strategy.
Nearly nine in 10 (87%) say their organizations or clients actively strive to incorporate DE&I in their programs, with the top two strategies being the hiring of minority-owned suppliers and offering an option to attend events virtually.
While the report provides a snapshot of what’s happening in various areas of the world, we’ll focus in on highlights from North America. Respondents from this region reported the highest percentage of completely remote workforces, which has resulted in internal and small, simple meetings already surpassing 2019 levels.
Meeting planners in North America are seeing the highest increase in group rates for 2023 in both group air (7.8%) and hotel (7.4%) compared to other regions. Also, North America is the only region expecting a decrease in hotel room and meeting space availability.