What will the climate for the meetings and incentives industry look like in 2024? Our editors make the forecast.
Barbara Scofidio, Editor, Prevue Magazine
Prevue is about to release our first-ever—and the industry’s only—research study focused entirely on in-house corporate incentive planners with 382 planners responding. I’ll share three predictions based on that research and individual discussions I’ve had with hundreds of meeting planners.
- While 2023 was a turnaround year, with 60 percent of respondents to our survey reporting that their companies’ sales had increased, 2024 will be even stronger. A full 58 percent of respondents reported bigger budgets for ’24 and all data points to an even better year.
- Long-haul international travel will return, with companies that have already having expanded their programs to Europe now choosing bucket-list destinations such as Singapore, Australia and New Zealand.
- Wellbeing, both for attendees and for the planners themselves, will continue to be a priority. This is not a post-Covid trend, it’s permanent. Just look at how many employees are fighting to continue to work from home because of the work-life balance it provides. This new state of wellbeing will be reflected in our programs in the form of healthy F&B, built-in free time, options for physical wellness, and accommodations for mental health and neurodiversity.
Regina Baraban, Senior Contributing Editor, Prevue & Recommend
Reflecting on my news stories and interviews for Prevue last year, a defining word for 2024 is “nimble.” The meeting and incentive industry has proved to be resilient over the past few years, and is predicted to be strong in 2024. In 2024, meeting and incentive pros will also have to be nimble, to:
- Quickly come up to speed on how and when to use AI as an effective planning tool,
- Adjust to world events from climate disasters to wars, and to a volatile election year in the U.S. that could affect meetings and events,
- Provide attendees with creative, curated programs that fit their demographics and psychographics, because “one size fits all” is an obsolete concept for meetings and incentives,
- Fulfill meeting goals of diversity, equity and inclusion even in states that have DEI restrictions,
- Effectively manage and negotiate site selection in a seller’s market.
In general, I think health and wellness has become a permanent lynchpin of meeting planning and that we’ll see more unstructured free time on meeting agendas. Planners will be catering to an ever-wider variety of attendee dietary preferences and restrictions, and offering a range of healthy dining options.
I also think that sustainable meetings will come to the fore in 2024, as our industry embraces environmentally friendly practices, including green and even carbon neutral events.
Sue Pelletier, Senior Contributing Editor, Prevue
Trust is going to be at the core of everything for meeting and event organizers in 2024. With a likely increasingly divisive, contentious and dis- and misinformation-filled U.S. election year looming, planners have to double-down on their efforts to be truly authentically who they are, not try to be whatever they think their audience values. Will this be the year we put a stop to greenwashing and fake speaker lists designed to make panels look more diverse than they are? I’m optimistic it will be.
When events stay true to their audience, mission and goals, when events earn trust, those in-person connections you foster thrive. This is going to be more important than ever as artificial intelligence makes it easier than ever to fake it and create discord.
It may be more of a wish than a prediction, but let’s make 2024 the year we demand trustworthiness of others, and more importantly, of ourselves, our organizations and our events.
Lisa Simundson, Associate Editor, Worth International Media Group
The end of in-person meetings has been predicted before, and not just during and after the worst of the pandemic. Thinking back to the 2008 Great Recession, with companies cutting budgets and new high-def video conferencing available, the question was in the air: Are in-person meetings passé?
Then, as now, the answer is the same—no way. In fact, for companies that have gone partially or fully remote, meeting in person has become more, not less, important, as those in charge recognize the value of going off-agenda and reconnecting in ways that used to only happen in office hallways.
An in-person gathering offers bonding moments, important sidebar conversations and impromptu collaboration opportunities that can’t be replaced on a Zoom or phone call, giving planners more potential revenue streams—the chance, for example, to combine an annual meeting with a first-contact of remote co-workers who have yet to meet in person. Beyond the meeting itself, planners who reach out to more departments within a company might discover some lucrative before and after facility rental needs and/or group activity bookings. 2024 might be the year “before & after” is as important as the “during” part of a meeting.
Paloma Villaverde de Rico, Executive Editor, Worth International Media
As an expert in leisure travel, let me touch on trends in the incentive travel market. I think programs will continue to focus on authentic experiences as the new luxury. Trips won’t be jam-packed with activities, but rather allowing incentive winners to explore on their own and immerse themselves in the destination (incentive winners are travelers after all). Incentive programs will seek to make less of a carbon footprint as programming has to consider that sustainability is top of mind for corporations and incentive winners. With that in mind, I think incentive programming will keep the travel closer to home, helping incentive winners discover their own backyard in the U.S.