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Gerardo Tejado of American Express Global Business Travel presents his firm's meetings-research results on the show floor at IMEX America.

What’s Next for the Meetings Market: A Detailed Picture

American Express Meetings & Events used the IMEX America show to present its latest forecast for the business-events landscape based on survey results from 500 planners.

According to the 2022 Global Meetings and Events Forecast from American Express Meetings & Events, more than two-thirds of responding planners expect their total number of meetings to return to 2019 levels by Q2 2023. However, the pre-Covid meetings landscape isn’t going to come back exactly as it was even after the appetite for holding business events returns without Covid-related hesitation.

The proof: The report found that, of the total number of in-person meetings that took place in 2019, about 40 percent will most likely return in 2022 or 2023 as in-person with no virtual component; another 40 percent of those will most likely be hybrid (in-person but with a virtual component); and the remaining 20 percent will most likely remain exclusively virtual.

In a session space set at one end of the IMEX America exhibit hall (photo above), Gerardo Tejado, general manager, meetings & events at American Express Global Business Travel, highlighted these findings plus others coming from the responses his firm got from 500 meeting professionals in June and July of 2021. A few examples:

• The survey found that the task of developing contingencies for each event has moved near the top of planning departments’ to-do lists for 2022 events. Tejado said that “planners are willing to sign contracts now, but they realize they must use clauses that allow them to shift to backup plans” without harsh financial penalties.

• Planning for duty of care towards attendees is another item that’s moved far up the list of planners’ duties. This includes developing frameworks for handling and communicating about situations around Covid-safety issues, fire safety, security from protestors or violent actors, food-allergy concerns, attendee accessibility to event spaces and content, and more. Using more event space than in the past is one way for planners to exercise duty of care for some of these issues, but 35 percent of respondents said that finding extra space at properties for a reasonable cost will be a primary challenge for them in 2022.

• 73 percent of respondents said they are confident that they can now handle technology-based event elements and make virtual and hybrid events more interactive and social for those who attend via technology. On the other hand, planners of events with fewer than 100 attendees expressed concern that the smaller venues they use might not be as technologically capable with virtual and hybrid events as large properties that have in-house production teams.

One last point Tejado made about the survey figures was that, as promising as they are for the future of in-person meetings, “the situation since we surveyed planners in the summer has only gotten more favorable. If we conducted the survey now, we think it would show planner sentiment to be even more optimistic than back then.”

The full version of the 2022 Global Meetings and Events Forecast can be found here.

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