Poise for a surge in internal meetings this upcoming year. They are expected to continue to significantly drive growth within the meetings and events industry in 2024, according to the 13th Annual Global Meetings and Events Forecast produced by American Express GBT Meetings & Events. This growth is primarily driven by organizations seeking to build relationships and connect their distributed workforces.

The 2024 forecast gathered insights from more than 500 meetings and events professionals worldwide, with additional commentary from more than a dozen industry leaders. Meetings professionals expect internal meetings to see the strongest growth of all meeting types, with 48% of respondents predicting more attendees next year.

“With more distributed workforces than ever, companies are reevaluating the importance of internal interactions for team cohesion, productivity, creativity, engagement, employee welfare. It’s never been clearer that in-person meetings and interactions are irreplaceable, with face-to-face connections and building relationships serving as cornerstones of personal and professional success,” according to Gerardo Tejado, senior vice president of Professional Services, American Express GBT. “Our forecast indicates that 2024 will be a dynamic year — not only are budgets and attendee numbers rising, but we’re also seeing technology adoption accelerating dramatically.”

Additional highlights from the forecast include:

  • 28% say programs have already met or exceeded pre-pandemic attendee levels and 42% expect to reach that goal in 2024.
  • 72% of meeting planners expect lead times in 2024 to be the same or shorter.
  • Only 25% say they were likely or very likely to look for a job within the next year; of those, more than 65% plan to stay in the same industry.

Distributed Workforce Models Accelerate Internal In-Person Meetings

A majority of respondents said meetings and events next year would be either entirely in-person (59%) or hybrid (20%) — with the remaining 21% virtual. With many organizations embracing hybrid and remote working models, the role of meetings and events in bringing distributed teams together is acceleraing, and the value of face-to-face interactions continues to grow.

Internal meetings and customer advisory boards are on track to see the biggest increase, with 42% of respondents saying there will be more of both types of meetings next year, followed by incentives (38%), small and simple meetings, product launches, and senior leadership meetings (37% each), conferences with trade shows (35%), and conferences without trade shows (30%).

According to American Express GBT’s Hotel Monitor 2024, hotel rates will likely continue to rise in most locations globally during 2024, but meetings and events are expected to replace the diminishing demand of leisure travel.

Technology Is Bridging the Gap

Technology is expected to make major changes in the way meeting professionals do their jobs, including destination research, event communication and registration automation. Artificial intelligence (AI) is increasingly used for personalized attendee communications; 42% of respondents say they expect to use AI in 2024. Mobile apps continue to be a staple in meetings and events, with a predicted usage rate of over 60%. Meeting professionals are also continuing to experiment with virtual reality technologies, with 41% of respondents expecting to use it next year.

Sustainability Adoption Continues to Rise

Most meeting professionals (78%) said their organizations would have net-zero goals by the end of 2024. However, that doesn’t happen without a few challenges noted from respondents, including identifying certified suppliers (39%), budget (35%), measuring impact and post-event CO2 calculation (32%), finding locations with minimal travel (28%) and lack of skills/resources/knowledge (23%).