American Express Meetings & Events released its 2023 Global Meetings and Events Forecast at the IMEX America show in mid-October, allowing planners to take in their colleagues’ perspectives at a time when the meetings function is starting to bear some resemblance to the pre-pandemic landscape.
Among all the data and analysis in the 70-page report, based on responses from 580 meeting professionals around the world, a few trends and figures stood out.
First, North American meeting planners are predicting a 7.4-percent increase in hotel-room rates for 2023 versus 2022—and they’re likely to be pretty accurate. "Average rates continue to rise due to higher labor, food, and other fixed costs, along with the impact of inflation—and we believe that trend will continue with high demand," particularly from leisure travelers, said Jonathan Kaplan, vice president, America sales, for IHG Hotels and Resorts. And with group airfares, North American planners expect an increase of 7.8 percent in 2023 versus 2022.
One complicating factor for staying on budget: “Short lead times and hesitating to book meetings until the last minute are lingering issues from the pandemic,” explained Milton Rivera, vice president of sales for American Express Meetings & Events. And “some organizations are still not prepared to plan too far in advance,” which could require them to make hard decisions in order to stay on budget for certain meetings: either host fewer attendees or deliver a scaled-down experience.
Second, 65 percent of North American planners expect their meeting spend to increase in 2023, which is nearly identical to the 68 percent who said the same for 2022, when in-person events returned in earnest. Of those 65 percent, 12 percent said the 2023 budget would increase by more than 10 percent, 28 percent it would increase by six to 10 percent, and 25 percent said it would increase by one to five percent.
Third, internal meetings are the fastest growing category of events across every region of the world. Why? “Bringing staff together for training and teambuilding is no longer optional with a dispersed workforce,” the report notes. “In-person meetings have a vital role in strengthening culture, onboarding new staff, communicating corporate values and goals, and increasing employee engagement.”
The evidence of companies’ post-pandemic commitment to internal meetings: In 2023, 66 percent of those events will require air travel for some attendees; 40 percent will be held in a city away from corporate headquarters; 45 percent will include overnight accommodations; and 39 percent will include scheduled social/networking activities.
Further, “it’s not just large organizations that are ramping up their in-person internal meetings,” says the report. “Small and medium enterprises are also using face-to-face events to strengthen their workforce and improve culture.” According to AmEx Global Business Travel, SME travel is recovering faster than any other customer segment—in Q2 2022, SME travel transactions were at 84 percent of 2019 levels versus 76 percent from all other customer segments.