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Budgets Versus Costs: A Losing Battle?

Based on several hundred planner responses, MPI’s latest industry outlook finds that rising prices have strained meeting budgets, and will likely continue to do so into 2024.

While hardly a surprise to those who have had to plan corporate and association meetings in the booming post-pandemic events market, price growth for most meeting-related elements is expected to be at least five percent yet again over the next 12 months. This is according to most of the 560 planners who responded in late March to Meeting Professionals International’s Spring 2023 Meetings Outlook Report, which was released this week. 

Heading up the list is food and beverage, where 55 percent of planners have dealt with costs that are at least 10 percent higher than they were one year prior. Another 30 percent of planners have seen an increase of six to 10 percent over 12 months. Unfortunately, two-thirds of responding planners don’t have high hopes for a cost slowdown between now and Q2 2024—32 percent expect F&B costs to rise more than 10 percent in that time, while another 34 percent expect a rise of six to 10 percent.

What’s worse is that “menus from hotels and venues have been unoriginal and uninspired” since the return of face-to-face events, said Melissa Woodruff, CMP, CGMP, meeting and event manager for Maritz Global Events, in MPI’s report. “They are trying to make up for lost revenue and profit” from the Covid pandemic.

As for guest rooms, 59 percent of respondents said the cost increase has been above 10 percent over the past year, while 30 percent of planners said their rates were between six and 10 percent higher. Planners’ thoughts about the next 12 months? Thirty percent expect another rate hike for accommodations that’s greater than 10 percent, while 31 percent expect a rate hike of six to ten percent.

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Audiovisual has also been a difficult area for planners to hold the line on costs. Forty-four percent have seen a cost hike of greater than 10 percent, while 31 percent said they’ve paid six to 10 percent more over the past year. And 28 percent of planners say they expect another cost hike of at least 10 percent, while 28 percent say their AV costs will likely be six to 10 percent higher and 25 percent expect those costs to be one to five percent higher.

Even meeting space—a line item that was ripe for negotiation before the pandemic—is far tougher to get at favorable cost. Thirty-seven percent of planners said they’ve paid at least 10 percent more for it over the past year, while 27 percent said they’ve paid six to 10 percent more. For the rest of 2023 and into 2024, 23 percent of planners expect another cost hike of more than 10 percent, while 26 percent expect the rate hike for meeting space to be between six and 10 percent.

The full MPI report can be found here.

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