American Express Forecast Signals Optimism for Industry Recovery

November 26, 2021

The 2022 Global Meetings and Events Forecast by American Express found that the majority of meeting professionals surveyed believe in-person meeting levels will return to pre-pandemic levels in one to two years.

According to the 11th annual report, produced by American Express Meetings and Events, a division of American Express Global Business Travel (GBT), in-person meetings and events are projected to grow in 2022, with 81% of events expected to have an in-person element. In another indicator of industry growth, 64% of global meeting and event professionals surveyed cited increased budgets for next year.

However, the industry is neither expecting nor planning a return to business as usual, according to the report. Instead, professionals intend to take lessons learned during the pandemic to improve the value, effectiveness and sustainability of future events and adapt to any ongoing uncertainties.

“While we are all eager to see the pent-up demand for meetings and events fully realized, we recognize that recovery will not be a straight line, and we can’t get there by simply repeating what we’ve done in the past,” said Gerardo Tejado, GBT’s senior vice president of value development and general manager of meetings and events. “As we look to 2022, we expect the optimism, resourcefulness and innovation we’ve seen in the sector over the past two years lead to a new era of thoughtful, tech-forward, responsible M&E strategies.”

Despite the rise of in-person meetings and events, virtual and hybrid formats will continue to play a key role, according to global survey respondents. Hybrid meeting formats will continue to gain traction as they help expand reach to wider audiences, create a built-in virtual contingency plan and increase return on investment. An increased number of attendees is expected across all event types and formats.

Meanwhile, the environment will be a priority for most meeting and event programs in 2022, according to the forecast, with 83% of respondents saying their organizations take sustainability into account when planning meetings and events. The sustainability practices most cited by respondents were minimizing paper usage and applying energy-saving and waste-reduction measures for their 2022 meetings.

North America

Meeting professionals in North America are strongly optimistic about a recovery in 2022. At the time of the survey, 74% ranked optimism level as 8 or higher, on a scale of 1 to 10. The region was the leader in resuming in-person meetings and events, with 31% already doing so in June and July of 2021 and at the time were most likely to have in-person events scheduled for 2022 (54%).

Europe

Meeting professionals in Europe are guardedly optimistic about 2022. Fifty nine percent had an optimism level of 8 or higher on a scale of 1 to 10; the lowest of the four regions. However, 48% of European events in 2022 are expected to be in-person-only, the second-highest region after North America. And although respondents predict a slower recovery than in other regions, 86% are confident that in-person attendee numbers will return to pre-pandemic levels within five years.

Central and South America

Meeting professionals in Central and South America are the most optimistic about the industry’s prospects for 2022, with 87% ranking their optimism level as 8 or higher on a scale of 1 to 10, while 82% believe their career options are good to excellent. The region’s projection for in-person components for events is slightly lower than the others, at 76% – however 81% of respondents expect in-person attendee numbers to return to pre-pandemic levels in the next one to two years, the highest regional result.

Asia Pacific

Meeting professionals in the Asia-Pacific region are fairly positive about the health of the industry in 2022. Nearly two-thirds (64%) said they would rank their optimism level as 8 or higher on a scale of 1 to 10, and 58% believe their career options are good to excellent. They expect 81% of 2022 events in the region to include an in-person component. And 62% of respondents in the region expect in-person attendee numbers to return to pre-pandemic levels in the next one to two years.

Methodology

The 2022 Forecast is based on a survey of 500 meetings and events professionals and interviews with top industry experts. The survey and interviews took place from June to July 2021. Respondents represented corporations, associations, buyers, and suppliers across 31 countries. The result is a statistically and globally representative snapshot of what to expect in the meetings and events industry in 2022.

Download the full report here.

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