On-Site at IMEX: Amex GBT’s 2023 Meeting and Events Forecast

At IMEX America, taking place at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas, October 11-13, American Express Global Business Travel executives shared the findings of its recent "2023 Meetings and Events Forecast." The team of Linda McNairy, VP of the Americas, and Gerardo Tejado, SVP, global value development and general manager, meetings and events, detailed five key trends in the industry: In-person meetings are roaring back; internal meetings are driving culture; organizations are getting serious about sustainability; it’s a seller’s market; and meeting spend (and cost) is rising.

The highlight? It’s very clear there is optimism around the industry, said Tejado. Seventy-seven respondents rated their optimism of at least an “8” on a scale of 1 to 10 (up from 71 percent last year).

When it comes to in-person meetings, two-thirds of respondents (68 percent) said their organizations were getting close to pre-pandemic levels. Nearly nine in 10 (88 percent) of meeting in 2023 will include a face-to-face component. In all, 50 percent will be in-person only, while another 38 percent will by hybrid. Only 12 percent will be virtual only.

Regarding internal meetings, these are driving how offices are handling whether they are open or not. Just under half of organizations (40 percent) have adopted hybrid or remote working as we continue through/leave the pandemic. Eight percent of offices remain fully remote/closed. The remainder is fully open. According to Tejado, employees need face-to-face meetings; he added that internal meetings will continue to be the fastest growing category in 2023 across all regions globally. (Following are product launches and small/simple meetings.)

Along those same lines, companies are investing in the quality of their internal meeting experiences. Forty percent were held in a different city, another 40 percent included social activities/networking, and 45 percent included overnight accommodations. As for travel, 39 percent of such meetings required domestic air travel, while 27 percent traveled internationally. Thirty-four percent required no air travel.

Pertaining to the management of meetings, respondents said their organization has adopted the following components:

  • An approval process for meetings (72 percent)
  • The inclusion of small and simple meetings (69 percent)
  • A centralized staff to support meeting planning and execution (68 percent)
  • The inclusion of virtual and hybrid meetings (66 percent)

Sustainability continues to be more than just a buzzword—to an extent. According to the report, sustainability remains a priority among meetings and event planners, but calculating post-event CO2 is not a common practice. In fact, just 18 percent of North American organizations do so. That said, nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of respondents said they have a defined sustainable meetings program strategy.

In addition, diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) is gaining traction in the industry. Nine in 10 respondents (87 percent) said their organization actively strives to incorporate DEI into their meetings and events. Different regions are achieving this differently, but common practices include choosing minority speakers, emcees and entertainment (North America), providing virtual attendance options (Europe), focusing on accessibility (Latin America), and using minority-owned suppliers (Asia Pacific).

Lastly, meeting spend (and costs) are rising. Companies expect to invest more in meetings and events going forward. Nearly two-thirds of organizations (65 percent) said spend is increasing, with 10 percent said that spend is increasing by at least 10 percent, while the remaining third (35 percent) said meeting spend is either the same or decreasing.

Similarly, Tejado noted that it is a seller’s market. Around half of respondents expected more guestrooms and meeting spaces to become available in the next two years but due to current availability, space remains a challenge for planners. Short lead times and hesitating to book meetings until the last minute are lingering issues from the pandemic. At the same time, North America is seeing the highest year-over-year expected increase in average group rates (up 7.4 percent for hotels and 7.8 percent for air).

Respondents did, however, voice some concerns around the industry. Common topics included further COVID-19 outbreaks, geopolitics/the war in Ukraine, reduced hotel inventory, potential travel restrictions, inflation, labor shortages and compressed lead times.

Tejado and McNairy offered five “recommended actions.” They were:

  1. Increase stakeholder adoption
  2. Implement simple meetings booking technology
  3. Help define a sustainable meetings program roadmap
  4. Evaluate your meeting program for synergies with travel programs
  5. Survey your attendees in advance of the event

The 2023 forecast is based on a survey of 580 meetings and events professionals from around the world.

Source: Amex GBT

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