Latest Q2 Meetings & Events Survey findings show new challenges in travel restrictions, venue availability and staffing as the industry ramps up in-person events.
Physical fairs attract over a million visits in the second quarter of 2021.
Global DMC Partners (GDP) has released its Q2 Meetings & Events Pulse Survey results during its quarterly webinar. Attracting nearly 250 online participants, the virtual event included a panel of industry experts weighing in on the top findings, discussing insights from their perspectives and sharing their real-world best practices.
Hosted and moderated by GDP President & CEO Catherine Chaulet, the timely and interactive discussion included diverse voices and perspectives from across the globe and in various categories, including corporate meetings, associations, and incentives.
The webinar also included live audience polls on each of the following top challenges in returning to face-to-face meetings and events.
Travel Restrictions and Vaccines
When asked in the Q2 survey, 46 per cent of respondents cited travel restrictions and vaccine rollout as their primary challenges in returning to in-person events. Yet, surprisingly, the challenge of implementing health and sanitation protocols dropped significantly by nearly 20 points compared to the Q1 survey results.
During the webinar’s live poll question on this topic, the audience reported that travel limitations and flight restrictions are their most significant concern in getting back to in-person meetings and events (45 per cent).
Rising Costs, Established Budgets
The majority of survey respondents (32 per cent) reported that programme budgets had not changed significantly, which poses an additional challenge as hotel room rates, airfares, and other associated costs are rising. However, indicators do show that budgets may be starting to increase on the whole. Compared to 12 per cent in Q1 findings, 26 per cent of planners are now reporting that their meeting and event budgets are growing. Furthermore, 33 per cent of planners said budgets were decreasing in Q1, with only 23 per cent reporting they are falling in Q2.
Venue Availability and Staffing Shortages
Webinar poll respondents also noted that staffing – both internal staffing and event onsite staffing – has become a greater challenge lately as demand continues to increase. This was also echoed by the panellists who pointed to issues that have surfaced with their event vendors – such as hotel, venue, décor, and A/V suppliers – being short-staffed. Vendor staffing shortages have led to slow response times, limited services and hours of operation, and onsite event management issues.
Based in the United Kingdom, panellist Helen Capelin of Ashfield Event Experiences stated that while demand is anticipated to reach pre-pandemic levels this fall, venue availability is currently her biggest concern. City centre hotels are not a viable option, so clients are looking for rural alternatives. Staffing in the U.K. is also an issue due to Brexit implications as Continental European workers leave the country. At the same time, many hospitality workers in the United Kingdom are also leaving the industry.
U.S. panellist Becky Cavanaugh with Syneos Health concurred. During a recent site inspection in Nashville, Tennessee, she found that most hotels and venues are fully booked. Room rates are exceptionally high; however, many hotels are still offering limited services. Some hotels have not brought back room service or daily housekeeping.
Chicago-based panellist Katherine Kirk with Chicago Is…LLC, A Global DMC Partner, said that DMCs play an even more important role in pre-planning events and have candid conversations in advance with venues and suppliers due to staffing limitations in her market.
Cindy Grove of Morley Meetings & Incentives highlighted that many of her clients have specific dates and destinations in mind. However, due to limited venue availability, planners need to paint the picture of reality. Lead times for responses are slower because hotels and venues are not yet fully ramped up, and hotel sales teams are overwhelmed with RFQs. Furthermore, hold time windows are now very short. Clients need to make swifter decisions than in the past, as some hotels will not guarantee rates and space until the contract is executed.
In a follow-up live poll question, 62 per cent of webinar participants responded that hotel/venue costs are the biggest concerns regarding budget, followed by increasing flight costs (25 per cent).
Virtual vs In-person Events
Tom Edelen of Thrivent Financial shared that his company is still grounded at this time, and only essential travel is approved. However, they are hoping to get site inspection visits for 2022 programmes underway soon. That coincides with Q2 results, with 77 per cent of planners indicating that their companies are allowing travel either now or by the end of 2021.
Kuba Piotrowski of Oriflame stated that all of their 2020 and 2021 programmes have pivoted to virtual. However, they return to face-to-face programmes in 2022 by dividing incentive programmes into smaller, regional groups rather than large, global events. Piotrowski’s comment coincides with Q2 results around virtual events, as 79 per cent of respondents report that they are hosting virtual events in 2021. However, most respondents (52 per cent) report that they will not permanently hold programs virtually in the future.
From the associations perspective, Megan Griggs of Intellectual Property Owners Association is hopeful that in-person attendance for association programs in 2021 will reach 25 to 50 per cent of total attendees. She also shared a new version of the hybrid model, holding two separate meetings: one in-person portion and a virtual piece the week following. Everything in the live event is recorded, rather than streamed, for the virtual sessions, and live attendees also receive additional virtual sessions. She predicts this could be a more stable, safer and cost-effective way of doing business.
Edelen agreed, saying that live streams are too risky and costly. Instead, recordings can be available at a later time for attendees to view at their convenience. He also recommended having a separate host specifically for online attendees to feel more connected and more engaged.
Shifts in Market Demand
The webinar concluded with the vital topic of market demand. From its global perspective in sourcing and vetting RFPs worldwide, Global DMC Partners reported that planners are considering more regions outside of their respective domestic markets for 2022 programmes. The Q2 survey findings support this; in particular, Europe is gaining more traction than the Q1 survey results. From the panel of experts, the top destinations of interest are the U.S., Mexico, the Caribbean and parts of Continental Europe.
For the full results of GDP’s Q2 2021 Meetings & Events Pulse Survey, please visit https://tinyurl.com/b75ahe54.