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Meeting-Budget Woes, by the Numbers

Maritz released its Industry Trends Report at IMEX America with some eye-popping data on the rising cost of hotels, airfares, F&B, and other event-budget elements.

If your meetings budget has kept up with price increases over the past few years, you’re among the lucky.

For its Industry Trends Report, October 2023 edition, Maritz crunched numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Price Index and its own internal data to compare prices before the pandemic with those in August 2023. The results: Most key meeting expenses are up well over 20 percent even as inflation across the economy has fallen.

Here’s the Maritz data:
Up 12%: Hotels/Lodging (all chain scales)
Up ~30%: Hotels/Lodging (chain scales used most by clients: luxury/ultra luxury and upscale/upper upscale properties contracted by Maritz clients over the prior 12 months ending August 2023 vs. 2019)
Up 23%: Airfares (domestic airfares paid by Maritz client guests over the prior 12 months ending August 2023 vs. 2019)
Up ~20%: Wages for leisure and hospitality staff
Up 36%: Car rental
Up 25%: F&B (dining out)
Up 17%: Entertainment

The report drills down further on price hikes at hotels within the tiers most used by its clients. The authors note that the extreme price increases at high-end properties compared to 2019 are a result of strong demand by leisure travelers:
Up 43%: Ultra luxury
Up 36%: Luxury
Up 23%: Upper upscale
Up 16%: Upscale

In general, organizations are working to find ways to adapt to escalating costs rather than devoting more funds to their meetings, says Mary Casey, chief client officer at Maritz. “While high costs are straining budgets, we’re not seeing changes to those budgets—we’re seeing clients live within them.”

Overall, Maritz characterized its clients as “pushing forward in spite of challenges.” However, the landscape for corporate clients is distinct from association clients.

While associations are seeing strong attendance across most segments, planning challenges include finding available meeting space, lack of flexibility on contract terms, and attendees registering late. Also noted is the country’s polarized political atmosphere, which can impact location choice and will intensify in the coming election year.

Corporate planners are contending with a different set of challenges. Maritz is seeing “little consistency in plans/strategies,” meetings being dependent on company financial results, flat budgets forcing tradeoffs in the number of guests or the event experience, and more scrutiny from legal and procurement departments.

While Maritz does not anticipate falling prices, it reports that travel demand is returning to pre-pandemic patterns: “Luxury-resort rate growth is softening in U.S. locations as leisure demand cools, supply increases, and Americans take their dollars overseas. Conversely, business-group demand, which favors urban markets, is rebounding.”

In addition to rising costs and shifting hotel patterns, Maritz’s Industry Trends Report covered the rise of generative A.I., engaging Gen Z attendees, and other topics. Read the full report here.

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