Over 180,000 one-to-one networking appointments took place at the 34th annual Virtuoso Travel Week (photo by Eric Bowman)
Higher costs remain the strongest reason why the meetings and events sector of the travel industry has seen a slower recovery from the pandemic, according to the Q4 Meetings & Events Pulse Survey, conducted by the Global DMC Partners (GDP), the largest global network of independent Destination Management Companies (DMCs) and specialized event service providers.
The survey was conducted between November 10 through December 16, 2022 and showcases the most recent topics surrounding the current challenges of MICE travel, from sustainability to hiring trends and more.
Higher Costs is a True Challenge
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Eighty-eight percent of those surveyed said their budgets have increased due to inflation, an increase from 68 percent during the second quarter of the year. Airfare costs impact the majority of event planners (68 percent).
Some event planners have been choosing to host events in destinations that are closer to where the majority of attendees are located to offset these costs or have chosen to utilize different methods of transportation, such as train travel over flights.
“Our clients provided valuable insight into the issue of increasing costs in relation to their budgets,” said Global DMC Partners President and CEO Catherine Chaulet. “Some survey respondents commented that they are being asked to find savings in order to deliver the best solution for the same budget, while others mentioned that they are now tasked with making budgets that were set over a year ago work in the current climate. Thanks to our far-reaching global network with boots-on-the-ground in nearly every destination, our team is able to help clients alleviate some of these current challenges.”
Another 47 percent of event planners have reported an increase in their budget over the last year. Around 15 percent of planners are also seeing their 2023 budgets increase. This is often due to higher operating costs associated with inflation.
In-Person Events are Back!
What isn’t surprising about MICE right now is that the large majority of planners (66 percent) have reported that in-person events are seeing the same or higher levels of attendance than they did pre-pandemic.
Respondents are also noticing that MICE attendees are registering for the events last minute more often.
The popularity of in-person events has urged many planners (53 percent) to host only in-person events, without a virtual option. Hybrid elements are still being incorporated, but many events will be in-person this year and beyond.
Cancellations and Rebooking Policies Are Top-of-Mind
When planners negotiate a contract with an event venue, just about half recognize cancellation or rebooking policies are the most important parts of the contract, something we’ve seen rise across the travel industry following the COVID-19 pandemic. About 48 percent of planners recognize this as their top concern when making a contract.
Hotels have been asking for a higher deposit up-front when planning an event, and have also tightened their cancellation policies following the pandemic, creating hesitation among planners.
Sustainability is a Growing Concern
International event planners (those not from the U.S. or Canada) are much more concerned about sustainability in event planning, even requiring suppliers to have some level of certification with sustainability. The interest in sustainability among international respondents has grown 28 percent from the middle of 2022 to the end, with 73 now reporting having sustainability goals for their clients.
American planners are less interested in sustainability overall, with the interest growing from 31 percent to 38 percent from the middle to the end of the year.
MICE Planners are Still Hiring
While the number of event planning companies currently hiring has lowered from the middle of 2022, 45 percent still report they are actively hiring or will be soon. Mid-level and entry-level positions are needed, and ten percent more planners (32 percent overall) are hiring freelancer event staff more than they did in the middle of 2022. Twelve percent more planners have increased salary or compensation packages to encourage more hiring.
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