On a scale from one to 10, a remarkable 84 percent of meeting professionals in North America rated their level of optimism at an 8 or higher for the health of the meetings industry in 2024.
That statistic is a standout from the 2024 Global Meetings and Events Forecast from American Express Global Business Travel, but the report also reveals significant challenges for the year ahead.
The far-reaching forecast is based on a June 2023 survey of more than 500 event professionals from 26 countries as well as interviews with more than a dozen industry leaders. Topics covered in the 38-page report range from meeting spend and shifts in attendance numbers to program strategy and sustainability, and the results are reported globally as well as regionally for North America, Europe, Latin America, and Asia-Pacific. The forecast also includes a special section on how event professionals can work more effectively with marketing executives, based on a separate survey of more than 300 marketers and interviews with marketing leaders.
Here are the results of just four survey questions: expectations for 2024 around cost per attendee, meeting formats, technology adoption, and challenges. While we focus mainly on the results from North American respondents, the full forecast can be downloaded from the American Express website.
Cost Per Attendee
For planning teams that build their budgets based on the cost per attendee, the American Express forecast provides benchmarking numbers for the year ahead. Respondents were asked to estimate their 2024 per-person meeting costs, based on the total meeting budget divided by the number of expected attendees. For all meetings, including hybrid and virtual, planners were asked to calculate all costs except for air travel. This included accommodations, food and beverage, technology, ground transportation, activities, and other elements.
Not surprisingly, simple meetings have the lowest per-person cost while incentives and special events are the highest.
• Incentive/Special Event $871
• Conference with Trade Show/Exhibits $833
• Senior Leadership Meeting/Board Meeting $814
• Conference without Trade Show/Exhibits $785
• Client/Customer Advisory Board $725
• Internal Team Meeting/Training $638
• Product Launch (Internal/External) $638
• Small/Simple Meetings $495
While in-person meetings are the most-common meeting format in all regions of the globe for 2024, virtual and hybrid meetings still have a hold on the market. In fact, almost one in five meetings in North America will be virtual next year:
• In-person: 63%
• Virtual: 19%
• Hybrid: 18%
Asia-Pacific is the only region reporting a significantly different distribution of the three formats: Only 42 percent of meetings are expected to be in-person in 2024, with 29 percent virtual and 29 percent hybrid.
Respondents were asked which technologies they expect to use in 2024 for meetings and events. Remarkably, artificial intelligence was among the top four—a technology that wasn’t available until November 2022. That’s when ChatGPT, the free and easy-to-use generative-A.I. platform, launched.
In 2024, North American planners expect to use:
• Mobile apps: 65%
• On-site check-in tools: 53%
• QR codes: 49%
• Artificial intelligence: 42%
• Virtual reality: 40%
• Wearable technology: 30%
Interestingly, A.I. adoption is lowest among European respondents (34 percent), and highest among respondents in the Asia-Pacific region (57 percent).
Top Planning Challenges
Meeting professionals were asked what they think will be the top planning challenges for 2024. The results are unsurprising, but do remind planners that they’re not alone, especially when it comes to the problem of rising costs.
North American planners expect the biggest planning challenges for 2024 to be:
• Costs: 54%
• Location availability: 44%
• Budget cuts: 39%
• Flight availability: 32%
• Hotel staffing levels: 26%
• Approval/buy-in from higher ups: 25%
• Tracking carbon emissions: 19%
Tracking carbon emissions was a bigger concern for planners in Europe and Asia-Pacific, where 24 percent and 37 percent of respondents, respectively, consider it a challenge.