Planners are optimistic about 2024, with almost half expecting to book more meetings than in 2023. But the pressure is on to deliver high-quality events and game-changing attendee experiences while staying within budget. Rising costs combined with less experienced hotel staff are changing how and where planners book, resulting in smaller events, a move to secondary markets and modified experiences.

This is all according to the 2024 State of the Meetings Industry annual report from Knowland, a data-as-a-service insights provider on meetings and events for hospitality, and ConferenceDirect, a full-service global meetings solution company. The collaboration intends to uncover insights to help industry professionals understand what meeting planners and event managers expect and will prioritize in 2024.

Other highlights from the survey include:

  • High price is a key challenge for planners. While planners are more satisfied with the responsiveness of venues, pricing continues to be an issue with 47% of planners. The rise of up to 50% in food and beverage (F&B) and audiovisual prices is a game-changer for event design and production. As a result, decision-makers are leaning into planners and intermediaries to find ways to do more within their budgets.
  • Secondary markets are providing an opportunity for lower prices and high-quality experiences. Organizers are considering changing destinations and venues to manage meeting costs. Groups are more likely to relocate events to alternative markets to maintain event quality and avoid moving down in chain scale. This shift presents opportunities for secondary and tertiary markets to attract new business by offering quality products, services and attractive pricing alternatives compared with the top 25 market destinations.
  • Artificial intelligence (AI) and sustainability are on the radar, but not influencing strategy. AI is playing an increasing role in the meetings industry and planners see opportunities for AI usage, such as for event mobile apps and virtual assistants. Yet, there is less excitement for AI in daily operations or game-changing digital applications, at least for now. And while sustainability is a top-of-mind issue, it has not yet made it into the key performance indicators of meeting organizers.
  • Hotel responsiveness has improved, but staffing levels and experience continue to plague events. Satisfaction with hotel responsiveness is up 100% compared to last year. However, planners are still impacted by staffing and experience levels at hotels. Hotel cluster sales models are cited as driving slower responses, and inexperience is causing longer contract periods. Planners point out that the lack of knowledge by both sales and operations staff causes them to work harder.

Larry Hanson, CMO of ConferenceDirect, concludes, “Planners are optimistic, with 42% expecting an increase in bookings this year. Compared to past surveys, the 2024 report shows a distinct and promising movement toward normalcy. Even still, hoteliers will need to balance the scales between profitability and service standards to encourage and rebuild sustainable relationships with meeting planners.”

Read the full report here.