While 2020 may be forever entombed in our collective memories as a low point, especially for the meetings and events industry in which personal connections and collaboration are at the forefront of everything, 2021 is looking quite sunny comparatively. Meeting Professionals International (MPI), the world’s largest meeting and event industry association, recently published its Spring 2021 Meetings Outlook, a future-focused quarterly report that identifies new trends and innovations. The publication allows planners to budget and plan accordingly and ensures a strong foundation for building sound strategies that keep businesses on paths to success.

While this quarter saw the largest positive overall business projection in the history of MPI’s Meetings Outlook, meeting and travel professionals must still contend with complicated prioritization (privacy vs. safety) and ongoing furlough and layoff challenges.

Key findings from the report include:

  • 81% of respondents predict favorable business conditions for the year ahead — the third consecutive quarter showing notable growth in industry optimism.
  • Only 12% of respondents expect their organizations/clients to mandate participants of upcoming in-person meetings and events be vaccinated against COVID-19 (a form of the so-called vaccine passport).
  • 24% of planner respondents and 40% of supplier respondents were furloughed or subject to layoffs at some point during 2020. As of mid-March, 30% of furloughed planners and 29% of furloughed suppliers remained on the sidelines; of those subjected to layoffs last year, 58% of planners and 43% of suppliers remain unemployed.
  • 61% of respondents are optimistic about the new U.S. presidential administration’s impact on meetings and events, while 15% are pessimistic. The remaining 24% reported being neither optimistic nor pessimistic.

“We’re keeping an eye on our core marketplace indicators — like overall business conditions and contract employment — areas that will predict future recovery,” says Jessie States, CMP, CMM, director of MPI Academy. “An unprecedented 81% of meeting professionals predict positive business conditions over the coming 12 months, and while conditions couldn’t have gotten much worse than they were last fall — we’ve never seen a rate that high.

“Contract employment continues to increase from a low of 7% hiring contractors last summer to 23% today. Projections related to live in-person attendance are increasing, while the comparable projections for digital attendance continue to increase — but at a lesser rate — for the first time since the current crisis manifested last year. A few more people are pushing their first in-person experience into 2022, but we still see more than three-quarters of meeting professionals predicting a face-to-face event this calendar year.”

Meetings Outlook presents future industry trends and predictions from MPI members, including meeting professionals on MPI’s Business Research Panel. Research is conducted in-house using the Qualtrics survey platform. The research is conducted quarterly and provides current business conditions and future outlooks. Meetings Outlook is developed in partnership with IMEX Group.

The full report can be found here.