Coming out of the pandemic, fears that events might struggle to reclaim their audience surfaced. But today, the audience is returning and  expected to increase beyond its 2019 peak. While this is great news, according to global hospitality group Accor, it also presents challenges and opportunities for the meetings and events industry that will affect the way events are booked, planned and executed.

“The total global meeting industry worldwide is forecast to be worth $1.78 billion by 2030,” says Sophie Hulgard, chief sales officer at Accor, citing Statista data. “That’s because being in a room with people matters — it’s powerful and it’s valuable.”

Accor recently released a report titled “Meeting Expectations: The Future of Meetings & Events” to address the transformation that the meetings and events sector is undergoing, and explore the shifts impacting the industry as it continues to evolve. The report revealed a need to focus on balance and belonging as the global meetings and events sector continues to recover and drive strategic growth for 2024 and beyond.

“The global business landscape is undergoing a profound transformation,” explains Hulgard. “The pandemic was a defining moment for the industry. We were thrust into a world of virtual gatherings, with in-person events grinding to a halt. Yet we adapted and evolved. That evolution continues today and the one thread that connects all the trends we forecast is the human connection. Today, more than ever, it is about the human need to meet, share and thrive.”

According to Accor Meetings & Events Industry Forecast survey data, continued growth is forecast across all meeting and event sizes in 2024:

  • 78% of respondents said that their or their clients’ expenditure had increased since 2022, with 36% saying it had increased by more than 25%.
  • The growth is expected to continue into 2024, with 80% of surveyed experts expecting increased spend in 2024, with 30% saying it would rise by more than 25%.
  • 78% of respondents expect the number of small and medium sized meetings (under 100 delegates) to increase next year.
  • 78% say they expect the number of meetings of over 100 delegates to increase.
  • 57% of respondents predict a rise in large meetings (over 300 delegates) to increase.
  • 78% said it would be “very important” for their industry to attend exhibitions, conferences and trade shows in 2024.
  • 33% of meetings planners expect in excess of 40% more revenue from face-to-face meetings vs. a virtual meeting.
  • 80% of meeting planners would not be happy to use video-conferencing to close deals in 2024.

The new Accor report additionally presents five trends expected to shape the growth of the industry:

  1. Softer Productivity: The work hard, play hard ethos once associated with business and events is changing in line with the demands of new lifestyles. Balance purpose and productivity.
  2. Selling Belonging: The meetings and events sector is all about people. Human connection and fostering a sense of belonging are the cornerstones of successful event design. Celebrate the human connection. Sell belonging.
  3. Designing Experiences: Event bookers are looking for a return on their investment, but they are more than ever looking for ROX, a return on experience. Create memorable experiences that forge meaningful connections.
  4. Green Gatherings: Green credentials are no longer a bonus for events — they will be a deciding factor in who secures business. Sustainability should not be an afterthought.
  5. Disruptive Technology: In-person conferences are now a vital way of bringing together people who may only see one another through laptop screens. Digital has reach. Face to face has value. Being in the room matters.

Karelle Lamouche, chief commercial officer of Accor’s Premium, Midscale and Economy division, concludes, “The human connection goes with commercial success; it makes business stronger. As the industry continues to drive recovery globally, it is the commitment to forging meaningful connections, being a catalyst for commercial and cultural growth, and creating a sense of belonging that will ensure the sector exceeds its forecast growth. Travel is back, and for the meetings and events sector, it’s belonging and balance that will drive the bottom line in 2024.”

To download the report, click here.