Cost is the No. 1 deterrent to the return of meetings in 2023, according to a new survey, with 73 percent of meeting planner respondents indicating they expect price increases in at least some categories of 20 to 50 percent, with food and beverage expected by most to rise. 

Meetings and event data provider Knowland and global meetings management firm ConferenceDirect from Nov. 1-18 surveyed nearly 300 U.S. planners for its “2023 State of the Meetings Industry” report, released Monday.

Planner respondents cited cost, the return of business travel and budget increases among the most important factors in post-pandemic meetings recovery. The survey also highlighted staffing shortages as among planners’ top concerns for next year.

When asked what the biggest obstacle is for a full return to pre-Covid meeting volumes, about 47 percent of respondents cited the increased price of planning and executing meetings. Twenty-one percent cited client-reduced meetings and events budgets, while 17 percent indicated there weren’t any. 

Additionally, meetings venue labor shortages leading to inquiry backlogs are impacting service standards, as less than 22 percent of respondents reported they are “very” or “extremely” satisfied with response rates to their event inquiries. About 47 percent said they were moderately satisfied with response rates, while 19 percent said they are slightly satisfied and about 12 percent were not satisfied at all. In short, staffing challenges within hotels and event venues are not going unnoticed.

To navigate these hurdles, planners may look at different destinations or book further in advance when possible, according to the report.

When asked what is most important for venues to win event business, nearly 90 percent of respondents said flexible terms and nearly 50 percent said venue incentives. Conversely, more than 50 percent said offering hybrid technology packages was not important in winning contracts. 

“Even as fluctuations in the industry and rising costs are causing organizers to redefine event goals, meeting planners are evolving their strategies to meet these challenges head-on. … It is up to the venues to match those efforts through partnering on elevated meeting experience, meeting incentives, and flexible contract terms,” ConferenceDirect chief marketing officer Larry Hanson said in a statement.

What’s Not a Concern?

While planners may be concerned about costs and budgets amid staffing shortages, most are no longer concerned about the issue that brought us to this point: Covid-19. About 68 percent of planners said they don’t see “Covid issues” as a factor in 2023 events. 

Additionally, rescheduling has fallen off the list of worries, as nearly 80 percent of respondents said they are not at all likely to cancel or postpone an event in 2023, and 64 percent of planners said they are unlikely to plan fewer in-person meetings or events than they did in 2022. More than 22 percent said they were moderately or somewhat likely to reduce meeting volume in 2023.

What’s Trending?

Technology. When asked what three trends they expect to stay in place beyond Covid, 69 percent of respondents said the use of technology for attendee experience. Also among the top three trends, 53 percent said a focus on diversity, equity and inclusion, and 52 percent cites a more casual meeting atmosphere.

Combined business and leisure travel for meetings was listed fourth at nearly 39 percent, with a greater focus on sustainability trialing behind at 35 percent. Smaller meeting sizes with fewer attendees ranked last with 28 percent of the vote.

[email protected] (Angelique Platas)

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