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An Event-Industry Check-Up

Overall, the prognosis for the business-events economy is good. But even as parts of the world have surpassed their 2019 business levels, for others the pandemic recovery is uneven and slow.

While every organization’s path back to pre-pandemic levels of travel, meetings, and business success is different, the business events economy as a whole continues in a positive direction.

That’s according to the latest quarterly Global Events Barometer report from the Events Industry Council. The study is compiled by EIC’s research partner Oxford Economics based on data from four sources: STR Global, the Global Business Travel Association, Amadeus Hospitality, and Cvent.

One measure of the industry’s health is the volume of requests for proposal being sent by planners for future events. Globally in Q3 2023, RFPs scored 89 for all events, which means that RFPs were at 89 percent of 2019 levels. (A baseline index score of 100 represents 2019 volume.)

Breaking down those global Q3 results, RFPs for large and medium-size events showed more strength, scoring 101 (10 points higher than Q2), while smaller events scored 87 (8 points higher than Q2).

Looking at Q3 RFP scores on a regional basis, however, makes plain that there is an uneven recovery around the globe:
Middle East: 137
North America: 117
Latin America and the Caribbean: 107
Africa: 100
Asia Pacific: 72
Western Europe: 67
Central and Eastern Europe: 60

Researchers with an eye on the Middle East may see the region’s outstanding RFP activity in July, August, and September drop in Q4 to reflect tensions around the Israel-Hamas war.

The barometer also includes RFP scores for 18 individual countries, which reveal important dynamics within regions. For example, while Latin America and the Caribbean overall has a healthy RFP score of 107, the granular data shows a major RFP boom in Mexico. Similarly, while Western Europe overall is only seeing 67 percent of its pre-pandemic RFP volume, the U.K.’s numbers are well beyond 2019. Here are the top 12 countries for RFPs in Q3:
Mexico: 165
Turkey: 127
United Kingdom: 125
United States: 121
Canada: 113
Australia: 107
Spain: 96
Italy: 94
Japan: 93
Brazil: 90
India: 80
Thailand: 75

While RFPs reflect potential future business, the Barometer also reports on group room-nights in Q3 2023. Globally, the events industry scored 100 in Q3. This is the first time since EIC launched the barometer in January 2022 that group hotel nights have matched 2019 levels.

However, as with RFPs, regional variations tell a more nuanced story. Asia-Pacific reports group room-nights at 112 percent of 2019, North America and Western Europe are nearing full recovery, and Africa and the Middle East both have a long way to go:
Asia Pacific: 112
North America: 99
Western Europe: 96
Central and Eastern Europe: 85
Africa: 75
Middle East: 68

The barometer also asks event professionals what they see as the top “near-term downside risks” to continued growth and recovery, and concerns over geopolitical tensions have clearly grown over the course of 2023. Those tensions were cited as the top risk by just 18 percent of respondents in Q1, 36 percent in Q2, and 46 percent in the most recent survey, which was conducted from October 11 to 27. Another major concern for meeting professionals is the possibility that “sticky inflation keeps interest rates higher for longer,” which 27 percent cited as their top risk.

“Most indicators point to continued strength for the global business events industry, though various factors, including weakening economies and global tensions, may spur a slowdown in 2024,” writes EIC CEO Amy Calvert in an introduction to the barometer. “Still, the forecast is overwhelmingly positive for an industry so impacted by the worldwide pandemic.”

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