MPI Meetings Outlook: Optimism Is Up — But So Are Costs

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MPI Meetings OutlookMPI’s latest research finds that in-person events are approaching pre-pandemic levels for many. However, while the majority of respondents to the Spring 2023 MPI Meetings Outlook said they expect favorable business conditions to continue throughout 2023, rising prices will likely continue to provide headwinds through 2024.

First, the good news: 65% of the 560 planners who participated in Meeting Professional International’s latest MPI Meetings Outlook either are back to pre-pandemic levels with their meetings and events or anticipate getting there at some point this year — and 83% expect live attendance numbers to be favorable through 2023. Even the labor shortage that has plagued the meetings and hospitality sector seem to be easing a bit: While 52% said they still are having hiring challenges, that’s down 10% from last fall.

The bad news is that inflation hasn’t spared the meetings industry one whit. “Cost containment is the biggest challenge and the most disturbing trend, next to labor issues,” Mary Anne Whittle, CMP (MPI Arizona Sunbelt Chapter), said in her survey comments. “Cost and service levels have required us to consider every program we produce. This includes the reduction of the number of days the program is held, removing F&B functions and outsourcing services such as audiovisual and considering offsite options that are more conducive to the event for cost and service level.”

Where specifically are prices rising? Pretty much across the board, according to the MPI survey. Fifty-five percent said their F&B costs have risen more than 10% over the past 12 months, and another 30% said their F&B costs are up 6% to 10% since last year. And few expect to get relief on that front any time soon, said two thirds of the respondents. In fact, 32% said they are anticipating that F&B costs will increase at least 10% before next spring, while another 34% think the F&B cost increase will be more in the 6-10% range.

“The impact of F&B pricing increases was our chief concern this year and will likely continue to be a top concern in the foreseeable future,” an anonymous respondent said in their survey comments. “Finding ways to be creative with food options that engage and satisfy attendees without having to dramatically increase registration fees is a significant challenge.”

mpi meetings outlook
More than half say their expectations are similar when it comes to hotel room rates. In fact, 59% said they have seen room rates increase more than 10% over the past year, while 30% said rates they’re seeing are up 6-10% over the same time period. As is the case with F&B, they’re not expecting that to change much, at least in the near term. Thirty percent think hotel room rates are going to bump up at least another 10% over the next 12 months, while 31% said they are anticipating rates to go up somewhere between 6% and 10% before next spring.

Slightly fewer, 45%, said transportation costs also have skyrocketing this year, while 44% said AV costs also are up at least 10% year over year, with another 31% pegging the increase in AV fees in the 6-10% range. As with hotel room rates and F&B, 81% expect AV costs to rise at least somewhat over the next 12 months, with 28% expecting AV costs to go up at least 10%, another 28% anticipating AV costs will go up 6-10%, and 25% expecting a more modest 1-5% hike by next spring.

“Hotels, venues and partners are trying to make up for lost revenues and profits,” Melissa Woodruff, CMP, CGMP (MPI Carolinas Chapter), a meeting and event manager at Maritz Global Events, said in her survey response. “Budgeting has been tough, as prices are 25% higher than they have been in the past.”

Meeting space costs also are on the rise, with 37% of planners saying that line item has increased at least 10% this year, and another 27% saying it’s gone up 6-10%. About half expected that trend to continue into 2024, with 23% thinking it’ll go up at least 10%, and 26% expecting their meeting space will be 6-10% more expensive over the coming year.

Download the full MPI Meetings Outlook report here.

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