The American Express GBT Meetings & Events 2024 Global Forecast has recently unveiled insights that predict a significant surge in the meetings and events industry, primarily fueled by internal meetings.
The comprehensive survey, which marks the 13th Annual Global Meetings and Events Forecast, highlights the growing necessity for organizations to foster connections among their geographically dispersed workforces.
With data collected from over 500 meetings and events professionals worldwide and supplemented by insights from industry leaders, the forecast paints a promising picture for the future of corporate gatherings. The study suggests a continued upward trend with 48% of professionals expecting a rise in internal meeting attendance in the coming year.
Further optimism is reflected in the 28% of respondents who claim that their programs have already reached or surpassed pre-pandemic attendance levels. Moreover, an encouraging 42% are hopeful to achieve this milestone in 2024. This positive sentiment is reflected in the commitment to in-person and hybrid events, with 59% and 20% respectively, and a 21% engagement in virtual formats. The forecast suggests that North America and Europe are leading this charge towards face-to-face gatherings. The industry’s confidence is further underscored by the minimal likelihood of professionals seeking new job opportunities, indicating a bullish outlook for the sector’s stability and growth.
A shift towards longer lead times for event planning is noted, primarily due to delays in budget approvals, which could mean missed opportunities for securing preferred rates and venues. The forecast highlights that nearly three-quarters of respondents are dealing with the same or shorter lead times compared to last year.
Growth is on the horizon for all types of meetings, with internal gatherings and client/customer advisory boards poised for the most significant increases. The demand for in-person meetings is not only driving attendee numbers up but also shaping the choice of location, with ease of travel and available corporate properties playing pivotal roles.
Meeting policies are becoming increasingly strategic, aligning with broader business objectives and corporate culture. Technology upgrades, data collection, and preferred supplier utilization are areas earmarked for improvement. Safety, security, and meeting planning technology are key components of these policies.
Technology is bridging the gap
The 2024 forecast also points to a significant increase in the utilization of technology within the industry. Artificial intelligence, in particular, is poised to revolutionize personalized attendee communication, with a notable 42% of professionals expecting to integrate AI into their events. Additionally, mobile app usage is projected to exceed 60%, while virtual reality continues to gain traction, with 41% looking to employ it in their future events.
“Registration is an opportunity to make sure communications are in the tone of voice of the client, the hosting company, or even the attendees,” says Ariana Reed, director of global strategic partnerships at Amex GBT M&E. “AI can help make those communications more personable, incorporating preferences in registration that you wouldn’t necessarily know without asking. That could be the way you describe a certain field, a pronoun, or a surname, or it could automatically pick up if you are registering an attendee from the Middle East versus Europe, and what types of fields of information would resonate more with them to ensure you get accurate information about the attendees that are coming to your event.”
Another benefit of technology lies in the vast amount of data it collects, which can be used to measure return on investment in meeting programs. The meetings and events industry has long grappled with the most effective ways to measure ROI, and gathering data has always been a sticking point. “It was very difficult to attach outcomes to events for a long time,” explained Chad Blaise, chief revenue officer at Stova. “But because everything was online during Covid, we got a sense of exactly what it looks like to track every data point in an event.” Now that the majority of events are again in person, those same virtual data points can’t necessarily be tracked in a physical space. But as more meeting stakeholders and marketing leaders understand the value of events, they want more data to support their programs.
Sustainability continues to be a key focus, with 78% of professionals indicating that their organizations will be aiming for net zero goals by the end of 2024. Challenges remain, however, in identifying certified suppliers and measuring the impact of these initiatives.
The Regional Outlook
There are regional differences in what the industry can expect in the upcoming year.
Meeting professionals in North America say they are heading into the next year feeling busy, engaged, and excited about new technologies. They believe their profession is in good shape: 84% said they would rank themselves as 8 or higher on a scale of 1 to 10 when asked how optimistic they were about the health of the industry. 77% of respondents say attendee numbers have already returned to 2019 levels or will do so in 2024. The factors most likely to impact attendee numbers are cost, and health and safety concerns.
European meeting professionals expect modest increases in activity next year compared to respondents in North America and Latin America. Internal meetings will continue to play an important role in European meeting programs. Respondents said 52% would be held at a hotel, 48% will require overnight accommodations, and 46% will be held in a different city than the corporate office. Perhaps not surprisingly, the region has the lowest percentage of expected domestic air travel for attendees, at 33%.
Compared to other regions, Asia Pacific is leading the way with organizations that have already set corporate net zero goals – at 63%. Some 67% of respondents in Asia Pacific say that sustainability has been strongly adopted in their meetings programs; 74% say sustainability is very or extremely important for their organization.
Meeting professionals expect hotel room availability to stay the same in 2024 and anticipate more meeting space availability. Location availability is a concern for almost half (48%) of respondents.
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