Meetings Industry Report Reveals High Prices Top-of-Mind for Planners in 2024

February 13, 2024

While meeting planners are feeling optimistic about 2024, delivering high-quality events and attendee experiences while staying within budget continues to pose a major challenge. Rising costs coupled with inexperienced hotel staff are changing how and where planners book events, resulting in smaller gatherings, a move to secondary markets and modified in-person experiences.

These insights were unveiled in the 2024 State of the Meetings Industry report, a collaborative industry research report conducted by Knowland, a provider of data-as-a-service insights on meetings and events for hospitality, and ConferenceDirect, a full-service global meetings solution company.

Conducted annually, the survey showcases meetings and events trends from the planner’s perspective to help hotel and venue industry professionals understand what meeting planners and event managers will expect and prioritize in the coming year, according to Knowland and ConferenceDirect officials.

This year, planners were surveyed on their top expectations and challenges for 2024, and they had a lot to say, particularly when it comes to event experience, rising costs and changing roles.

“Improvements in staffing and technology have enabled hotels to respond faster,” said Jeff Bzdawka, CEO of Knowland. “Twice as many planners are satisfied with venue responsiveness compared to last year, however, our industry is currently undergoing a reset, requiring an alignment of expectations with costs on both sides. It’s clear from this year’s survey that to unlock our growth potential, we need to work to apply our passion and solve these challenges, together.”

Here are some key highlights from the survey:

Planners are bullish about 2024. Event planners are feeling optimistic about 2024, with approximately 42% expecting an increase in bookings, 32% forecasting growth of up to 20% and almost 10% projecting a boost over 20%. Additionally, planners expect their meeting sizes to grow in the coming year. More than 40% project growth of up to 10%, while 17% anticipate up to 20% more attendees, according to the report.

Higher prices pose a key challenge. Pricing continues to be an issue with 47% of planners, who named costs as their top area of dissatisfaction, as rising prices put pressure on delivering quality events within budget. For example, the expected rise in F&B and A/V prices of up to 50% this year will be a game-changer for event design and production, and decision-makers are leaning into their planners and intermediaries to help them find ways to do more within their budgets. 

Secondary markets provide opportunities for lower prices and high-quality experiences. To manage costs, 53% of respondents are considering moving their meetings to secondary markets and venues. Groups are more likely to relocate events to alternative markets to maintain event quality and avoid moving down in chain scale. This shift presents opportunities for second- and third-tier markets to attract new business by offering quality products, services and attractive pricing alternatives compared with the top 25 market destinations.

AI and sustainability are on the radar but not influencing strategy. While AI is playing an increasing role in the meetings industry, with planners seeing opportunities for AI event mobile apps and virtual assistants, there is less excitement for AI in daily operations or game-changing digital applications at this time. While sustainability is a top-of-mind issue, it has not yet made it into the KPIs of meeting organizers, with almost 50% of events admitting they have no sustainability requirements.

Hotel responsiveness has improved but staffing levels and experience continue to be an issue. While satisfaction with hotel responsiveness is up 100% compared to last year, planners are still impacted by staffing and experience levels at hotels. Hotel cluster sales models are cited as driving slower responses, and inexperience is causing longer contract periods. Planners surveyed said the lack of knowledge by both sales and operations staff causes them to have to work harder.

Besides sustainability and AI, the report also examines leading topics such as DEI and attendee wellbeing, top trends driving decision-making and how hoteliers can influence the RFP process.

“Compared to past surveys, the 2024 report shows a distinct and promising movement toward normalcy,” said Larry Hanson, CMO of ConferenceDirect. “Even still, hoteliers will need to balance the scales between profitability and service standards to encourage and re-build sustainable relationships with meeting planners.”

Download a free copy of the report here.


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