A proliferation of internal meetings and customer advisory boards will help the meetings industry continue to grow next year.
In a globally dispersed working world, internal meetings are critical, which will help fuel the industry’s upward trajectory next year, according to the 13th annual American Express Global Meetings and Events Forecast.
Meetings professionals expect internal meetings to see the most robust growth of all meeting types, with 48% of respondents predicting more attendees next year.
Internal meetings and customer advisory boards are on track to see the most significant increase, with 42% of respondents saying there will be more of both types of meetings next year, followed by incentives at 38%, small and simple meetings, product launches, and senior leadership meetings which are 37% each, conferences with trade shows at 35%, and conferences without trade shows at 30%.
Gathering teams together helps build relationships in distributed workforces and achieve overall objectives, according to the forecast produced by American Express GBT Meetings & Events, a division of American Express Global Business Travel (Amex GBT).
Meeting Outside the Corporate Office Preferred
Interestingly, 43 percent said even though they have unused corporate space, they are still having in-person meetings in off-site locations, said Linda McNairy, global VP of strategic meetings and travel for meetings, American Express Global Business Travel.
According to the report, 67% of respondents predict 2024 meeting spend to increase in 2024, and 13% project that the increase will be more than 10%. This will not equate to more elaborate gatherings as expenses are also increasing.
“Event budgets are increasing but not on pace with inflation,” said McNairy. Room rates, airfares, and F&B costs are also up.
“We may see shorter agendas as planners will have to cut back somewhere,” added McNairy. “This is also where partnerships come into play. How can we help each other? What is most important to you and your non-negotiables? Where are you willing to comprise?”
The global survey offers data, which is more important than ever to meeting professionals. “There is much more focus on capturing good data and leveraging it for decision-making,” said McNairy.
Another finding she found promising is that over 70% of those surveyed say they don’t plan to leave the industry. “We know that during the pandemic, many left. I often ask where everyone went. It’s nice to see people now who value the industry,” she said.
Technology Shakes Up Industry
Technology is changing how meeting professionals do their jobs, including destination research, event communication, and registration automation. AI, in particular, is increasingly used for personalized attendee communications, and 42% of respondents say they expect to use AI in 2024. Mobile apps are a staple in meetings and events, with a predicted usage rate of over 60%. Meeting professionals also continue experimenting with virtual reality technologies, with 41% of respondents expecting to use it next year.
Sustainability Adoption Still Continues to Rise
Most meeting professionals (78%) said their organizations would have net zero goals by the end of 2024. However, that doesn’t happen without a few challenges noted by respondents, including identifying certified suppliers (39%), budget (35%), measuring impact and post-event CO2 calculation (32%), finding locations with minimal travel (28%), and lack of skills/resources/knowledge (23%).
Although not part of the survey, McNairy said the Middle East is on the minds of meeting planners. She spent last week visiting customers, and many shared their concerns. She hasn’t seen any meeting cancelations yet, but this situation is being monitored.
There are regional differences the industry can expect in the upcoming year.
Meeting professionals in North America say they are heading into 2024 engaged and excited about new technologies. Eighty-four percent said they would rank themselves as eight or higher on a scale of 1 to 10 when asked how optimistic they are about the industry’s health. 77% of respondents say attendee numbers have returned to 2019 levels or will do so in 2024. Cost, health, and safety concerns are most likely to impact attendee numbers.
European meeting professionals expect modest increases in activity next year compared to respondents in North America and Latin America. Internal gatherings will continue to play an essential role in European meeting programs. Respondents said 52% would be held at a hotel, 48% would require overnight accommodations, and 46% would be held in a different city than the corporate office.
Asia Pacific is leading the way with organizations that have already set corporate net zero goals at 63% compared to other regions. Some 67% of respondents in Asia Pacific say that sustainability has been firmly adopted in their programs; 74% say sustainability is very or extremely important for their organization.
Hotel room availability is predicted to stay the same in 2024 and 2025, and anticipate more meeting space availability. Location availability is a concern for almost half, 48%, of respondents.