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Meetings Biz Is Strong, but Comes with Planner Pain

The latest MPI Meetings Outlook survey reports outstanding prospects for business in 2023, but the trials of a hotel seller’s market and staffing issues aren’t going away.

Business is brisk and optimism runs high for meeting professionals and suppliers who responded to the 2023 winter edition of Meeting Professionals International’s Meetings Outlook survey. However, a strong counterpoint to the respondents’ confidence is data on ongoing staffing issues and, for planners, the challenges of the seller’s market.

Starting with the most promising news, an overwhelming 85 percent of respondents to MPI’s survey have a favorable outlook on business conditions for the year ahead. That’s up from 81 percent who had a positive view last summer. And the percentage who have a negative outlook on the business has dropped from 14 percent last summer to just 5 percent now.

Projections for live-event attendance illustrate the strength of the market. More than four out of five respondents (82 percent) expect attendance increases, while only 8 percent expect attendance to be flat and 10 percent see a downward trend.

The Bad with the Good
The strong return to live events is reviving meeting departments and the venues they work with, but along with that comes challenges. As the report states: “Many venues and other suppliers are booked; the flip side—in concert with staffing issues being experienced across most industries, but especially hospitality—is planner concerns about service levels, the quality of relationships and, for some, a sense of being taken advantage of.”

Almost two out of three respondents (64 percent) say they’re experiencing a seller’s market. The report quotes Richard Miseyko, CMP, CMM, president of Site Search Inc., to illustrate the imbalance some are observing in hotel negotiations: “In lieu of a two-way street, I have seen hotels specify a flat amount [in damages payable] if you’re kicked to the curb. And it happens more often than it should when a hotel finds a more profitable piece of business.”

On an up note, the MPI survey did record a shift in the percentage of respondents who believe the market is balanced rather than favoring the seller. In fall 2022, 16 percent said the market was balanced compared to 21 percent in the most recent survey.

Staffing is the other major pain point covered by the Outlook survey. One respondent to the survey put it this way: “In nearly every market, we have found service issues remain as the hospitality industry continues to struggle to find, train, and keep good talent.”

Overall, 58 percent of respondents report that their organizations are finding it hard to fill job vacancies, while 36 percent say that’s not the case and 7 percent are unsure.

But difficult or not, hiring continues. Almost half the respondents (49 percent) report that full-time hiring has increased at their organization. Interestingly, that is the highest percentage recorded for full-time hiring in the history of MPI’s Meetings Outlook surveys.

The full MPI survey is available here, with more data and commentary on the event landscape.

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