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4 Insights into 2021 Planning Issues

Changing negotiation priorities and more observations from the just-released Global Meetings Forecast from American Express Meetings & Events.

Venues that lower their rates, reduce their fees, or provide special perks to attract in-person meetings in 2021 are likely just spinning their wheels. What North American meeting and conference planners really want from their hotel and convention center partners is flexibility and peace of mind.

That’s one takeaway from the 2021 Global Meetings Forecast from American Express Meetings & Events. The just-released study found that when asked about the top two factors influencing whether or not to hold face-to-face events, 78 percent of North American planners point to “favorable/flexible cancellation and attrition terms” and 66 percent pick “confidence in duty-of-care components for attendee health and safety.” Just 16 percent of planners select “favorable rates or reduced fees” as one of their top two priorities.

The forecast is based on surveys of 560 meeting professionals, interviews with 16 industry leaders, and the meeting activity of AMEX M&E globally. Here are three more findings gleaned from the 40-page study. (Download the full report here.)

It’s not surprising to hear that engagement is a challenge around virtual events, especially with so many people working from home offices. But even more planners find sourcing the right platform to be a problem. When asked to select their top two challenges for virtual events, North American planners pick “knowledge/experience with virtual meetings and the technology” (36 percent) and “engagement” (34 percent) far more often than challenges around budget, security, achieving the meetings objectives, or technical issues.

In North America, as well as elsewhere around the globe, planners report a high level of meeting-policy adoption. However, digging deeper, Amex M&E found all policy issues aren’t covered equally. Here’s the percentage of planners who say they have formal language in their policies for these topics:
68 percent: Safety and security
64 percent: Payment methods and processes for meeting/events goods and services
50 percent: Use of meeting-planning technology
44 percent: Third-party meeting planners
34 percent: Virtual and hybrid meetings
33 percent: Small/simple meetings
22 percent: Social media
16 percent: Use of Sharing Economy suppliers (e.g., Airbnb, Uber, Lyft)

• Meeting spend is expected to be lower across the globe in 2021 compared to 2020. The forecast predicts a drop of 5.7 percent in North America and 8 percent in Europe, with smaller decreases in Central/South America (-.57 percent) and Asia/Pacific (-1.33 percent). When asked what area they would cut first if budgets for face-to-face events went down, the most common answer is “off-site optional activities.”  

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