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Internal meetings are expected to continue to significantly drive growth within the meetings and events industry in 2024. This is primarily driven by organizations seeking to build relationships and connect their distributed workforces according to the 13th Annual Global Meetings and Events Forecast, produced by American Express GBT Meetings & Events.
The 2024 Forecast surveyed more than 500 meetings and events professionals from around the world, with additional commentary from more than a dozen industry leaders. Meetings professionals expect internal meetings to see the strongest growth of all meeting types, with 48% of respondents predicting more attendees next year.
Additional highlights from the 2024 Forecast include:
28% say programs have already met or exceeded pre-pandemic attendee levels and 42% expect to reach that goal in 2024.
72% of meeting planners expect lead times in 2024 to be the same or shorter.
Only 25% said they were likely or very likely to look for a job within the next year; of those, more than 65% plan to stay in the same industry – further evidence that meeting professionals remain bullish about the future of the industry.
Gerardo Tejado, SVP, Professional Services, Amex GBT, said: “With more distributed workforces than ever, companies are re-evaluating the importance of internal interactions for team cohesion, productivity, creativity, engagement, employee welfare. It’s never been clearer that in-person meetings and interactions are irreplaceable, with face-to-face connections and building relationships serving as cornerstones of personal and professional success. Our Forecast indicates that 2024 will be a dynamic year – not only are budgets and attendee numbers rising, but we’re also seeing technology adoption accelerating dramatically.”
Distributed Workforce Models Accelerate Internal In-Person Meetings
A majority of respondents said meetings and events next year would be either entirely in-person (59%) or hybrid (20%) – with the remaining 21% virtual. With many organizations embracing hybrid and remote working models, the role of meetings and events in bringing distributed teams together is amplified and the value of face-to-face interactions continues to grow.
Internal meetings and customer advisory boards are on track to see the biggest increase, with 42% of respondents saying there will be more of both types of meetings next year, followed by incentives (38%), small and simple meetings, product launches, and senior leadership meetings (37% each), conferences with trade shows (35%), and conferences without trade shows (30%).
According to Amex GBT’s Hotel Monitor 2024, hotel rates will likely continue to rise in most locations globally during 2024, and meetings and events are expected to replace the diminishing demand of leisure travel.
Technology is Bridging the Gap
Technology is expected to make major changes in the way meeting professionals do their jobs, including destination research, event communication, and registration automation. Artificial intelligence (AI) is increasingly used for personalized attendee communications; 42% of respondents say they expect to use AI in 2024. Mobile apps continue to be a staple in meetings and events, with a predicted usage rate of over 60%. Meeting professionals are also continuing to experiment with virtual reality technologies, with 41% of respondents expecting to use it next year.
Tejado said: ”Meeting planners must harness the available tools effectively by using technology for task automation, revising meeting program policies to accelerate budget approvals, and integrating business and meetings travel.”
Sustainability Adoption Still Continues to Rise
Most meeting professionals (78%) said their organizations would have net zero goals by the end of 2024. However, that doesn’t happen without a few challenges noted from respondents, including identifying certified suppliers (39%), budget (35%), measuring impact and post event CO2 calculation (32%), finding locations with minimal travel (28%), and lack of skills/resources/knowledge (23%).
GLOBAL VIEW: THE REGIONAL OUTLOOK
There are regional differences in what the industry can expect in the upcoming year.
Meeting professionals in North America say they are heading into the next year feeling busy, engaged, and excited about new technologies. They believe their profession is in good shape: 84% said they would rank themselves as 8 or higher on a scale of 1 to 10 when asked how optimistic they were about the health of the industry. 77% of respondents say attendee numbers have already returned to 2019 levels or will do so in 2024. The factors most likely to impact attendee numbers are cost, and health and safety concerns.
European meeting professionals expect modest increases in activity next year compared to respondents in North America and Latin America. Internal meetings will continue to play an important role in European meeting programs. Respondents said 52% would be held at a hotel, 48% will require overnight accommodations, and 46% will be held in a different city than the corporate office. Perhaps not surprisingly, the region has the lowest percentage of expected domestic air travel for attendees, at 33%.
Compared to other regions, Asia Pacific is leading the way with organizations that have already set corporate net zero goals – at 63%. Some 67% of respondents in Asia Pacific say that sustainability has been strongly adopted in their meetings programs; 74% say sustainability is very or extremely important for their organization.
Meeting professionals expect hotel room availability to stay the same in 2024 and anticipate more meeting space availability. Location availability is a concern for almost half (48%) of respondents.
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