Report: Increase in meeting volume, costs and optimism; Attendance delays

Northstar Meetings Group and Cvent reported strong demand for new events and a busy fourth quarter amid rising costs in the latest Meetings Industry Pulse Survey.

Data for September through October (as of October 6) was collected from 461 meeting planners comprised of professional conference planners, associations, and nonprofits (39%); businesses (38%); third-party independent planners (24%); social, military, educational, religious and fraternal groups (5%) with sports and government planners splitting the rest.

According to the survey, “demand for new events remains strong” with “68% of planners actively booking or seeking”, matching August activity. The industry can expect a very busy fourth quarter, as data shows that “62% of planners will produce their next event before the end of the year.”

The survey also noted that most respondents were optimistic about the meetings industry with just 16% saying they were “less optimistic than they were in August”. More than 60% of respondents were “more optimistic” about how their outlook on meetings and events has changed over the past six weeks.

The highest optimism report this year was among planners surveyed in March 2022 (over 70% said they were “more optimistic”), contrasting with a wave of cancellations in January due to Omicron, a period during which sentiment was particularly negative.

As meeting volume and optimism continue their upward trajectory, so does spending. The survey highlighted the impact of rising costs as 86% of respondents said they felt the material impact on their events. At the same time, they try to obtain a return on experience, but “cost control is just as important”, notes the survey.

Meeting volume may be high for organizers right now, but so is attendance. According to survey data, 2022 attendance was down overall – still below pre-pandemic levels – and “will likely be down next year”. Over 60% of respondents say Covid-19 is “not a factor” in their planning. This group has grown 10% since August, marking a growing distance from pandemic concerns.

According to the survey, meeting planners’ top concerns continue to be rising costs, budgets and low hotel staffing levels, with some respondents saying “the hotel industry is overpriced and understaffed” and “business is picking up.” : more incentives, more meetings. However, we need to monitor the costs much more closely. We need to protect our clients’ budgets. Additionally, nearly half of respondents agreed that hotels remain slow to respond to tenders.

Despite recent reports supporting an increase in staffing in the hospitality space, concerns about hotel staff have risen among survey respondents. Rated on a scale of one to five ranging from “not at all concerned” about hotel staff to one and “extremely concerned” to five, the weighted average response was 3.8, up from 3.3 in January.

Northstar Meetings Group is a portfolio partner of BTN under Northstar Travel Group.

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