The latest Amex GBT survey results can be summed up in one word: more. More meetings and events. More attendees. And more funding to beef up budgets — necessitated by rising costs per attendee.
After a couple of years of doom and gloom during the pandemic, optimism is once again on the rise. According to the American Express Meetings and Events’ 12th Annual Global Forecast from American Express Meetings & Events, a division of American Express Global Business Travel (Amex GBT), meeting professionals are feeling pretty good about the future of their industry. More than three quarters of Amex GBT survey respondents said they are feeling optimistic about meetings and events as we head into 2023.
This optimism is buoyed by the return of internal and smaller meetings, which have already reached 2019 levels in some areas, including North America, as organizations again rely on meeting face to face to improve productivity, reduce turnover, solidify teams and attract new hires. With 87% of Amex GBT survey respondents planning in-person components to their meetings in the coming year, more than two-thirds think the larger events will soon also be hitting 2019 levels by 2024.
“This Forecast reflects a renewed understanding of the value of meetings and events, and the critical role they play in building company culture and driving business,” said Gerardo Tejado, General Manager, Amex GBT. The forecast is based on a survey of 580 corporate and association meetings and events professionals and buyers and suppliers from 23 countries, as well as interviews with industry leaders.
Amex GBT Survey Results: Budgets and Costs on the Rise
This year has been pretty rough and tumble budget-wise as meeting organizers scramble to actuate the sudden and urgent need to book in-person meetings after a two-year hiatus. As planners found themselves competing for rates and space in 2022’s red-hot seller’s market, those in charge of the purse strings are spending the last two quarters of this year putting their meeting and budget priorities in order for the coming year. Participants said this should bring more stability to the budgeting and approval policy processes starting in 2023.
Stability doesn’t mean stagnation, however. With overall meeting spend projected to increase by an average of 3.1% — the same as was predicted in last year’s survey — 65% said they predict meetings and events (M&E) budgets will increase next year to help keep pace with rising costs. The amount of the increase varies by region, with 12% of North American and European respondents anticipating their budgets will go up by at least 11%.
They will need that budget bump-up, as the cost per attendee for all types of meetings and events is also forecast to rise next year, from 1.5% for small meetings to 3% for trade shows, conferences and other larger, more complex events. The squeeze for North American meeting budgets will be especially tight when it comes to hotel and airfare — meeting planners in the North America region are seeing the highest increase in group rates for 2023 in both group air (7.8%) and hotel (7.4%) compared to other regions. This isn’t too surprising considering North America is also the only region where meeting professionals are expecting a decrease in hotel room and meeting space availability, adding more fuel to the current super-heated seller’s market in the region.
If, despite the expected increase in M&E spend, they still find themselves having to make cuts, the first place they’ll look to trim would be offsite optional activities (23%) and number of nights (20%), according to the AMEX survey. On the other hand, if they find themselves with a budget that’s 10% larger than they anticipated, planners would spend the surplus on improving the on-site experience (32%), and increasing the use of technology (23%).
More Positive Changes on the Horizon
Tejado noted, “The report also finds an industry taking lessons learned during the last few years to bring positive change, including in areas such as technology, well-being, sustainability and inclusivity.” Eighty percent said their organizations take sustainability into account during the planning process. Three-quarters of these organizations also have a defined sustainable meetings program strategy, which could include minimizing paper usage (22%), energy-saving and waste reduction measures (19%) and booking green suppliers (18%).
Diversity, equity and inclusion also is a key factor for 87% of respondents. Among the strategies they use to Incorporate DEI into meetings and events are using diverse and minority-owned suppliers (29%) and providing an option to attend the event virtually (28%). However, most intend to concentrate their efforts on in-person events, with just 29% of North American respondents saying they plan to increase the number of hybrid events they hold next year.
Download the full report here.
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