After experiencing drastic change and contraction over the last two years as a result of the pandemic, the meetings and events industry is beginning to rebound. Business is returning, clients are traveling, new jobs are being posted, and people are ready to resume connecting in person.In March, we hosted a panel with some of our partners from across the industry ecosystem to discuss how the industry has changed, the challenges we’re facing today, and how to overcome those challenges with creative solutions. In this two-part blog series, you’ll hear from experts at ALHI, Accor, Liberty DMC, and BCD M&E’s Life Science Center of Excellence, with their thoughts on the state of business post-pandemic across the meeting and event ecosystem and how we can prioritize partnership to move forward together successfully.
State of the industry:
Supplier relations in meetings and events
Let’s start with the good, because there’s quite a lot happening these days that’s cause for optimism. Across the industry ecosystem—from event agencies to hotels and DMC’s—business is starting to rebound. Customer demand for live events and experiences is increasing, comfort with travel is steadily on the rise, and people are eager to start connecting again in person.
For hotels, short-term inquiries for bookings are growing and the number of RFP’s that are being received is beginning to reflect interest that is more reminiscent of numbers in 2019, than 2020. Associated Luxury Hotels International (ALHI) for example, exceeded the number of unique RFP’s requests in the last half of 2021, than compared to the entire year prior, and for five out of the last seven months, they exceeded $20M in bookings.
At DMC’s, good news is on the horizon as well. Liberty International (Liberty) has been seeing steady increases in demand for customers interested in meeting in person. They kept all of their existing destinations open throughout the pandemic and were even able to open a few new destinations over the last few years.
From an event management perspective, business also appears to be getting better. The life sciences space in particular was one of the hardest industries to support during the pandemic due to their collaborative nature and strict compliance regulations. However, life science campuses are beginning to reopen, restrictions are being lifted for customers, and clients are beginning to make requests for live business reviews and conferences, according to BCD Meetings and Events.
Due to the consistent increase in business, there is also significant demand for rebuilding teams that were forced to downsize due to the economic impact of the pandemic across all of these areas. New jobs are being posted, RFP’s are coming in for new positions, and the increase in employment opportunity appears to be a harbinger for good things to come.
Challenges as meetings and events business returns
Although there is plenty to be optimistic about as the industry begins to rebuild, there are also a few key challenges that are being faced by all members of the supply chain as well.
For hotels and DMC’s alike, January 2022 was a difficult month due to the coronavirus. ALHI experienced $14M in cancellations in January as a result of the variant. The silver lining however, is that most customers pushed their dates out 60-90 days rather than completely cancelling events or opting for virtual formats. Along that same vein, the arrival of a significant variant in January has caused some lingering anxieties for customers within the life sciences space. There is still some hesitation about returning completely to live formats given the unpredictability of how the virus will continue to evolve.
As a result of some of these lingering fears, hotels are experiencing challenges with fully contracting out events. Although customers are putting in short and long-term inquiries, they are hesitant to fully contract anything until the dates get significantly closer.
Staffing shortages across the supply chain are also a key challenge area. Many suppliers noticed that business went from slow to full throttle seemingly overnight. Although hotels, DMC’s and event agencies are actively looking to fill open roles to meet increased business demand, the lack of proper staffing has led to business delays in the meantime.
To top everything off, all of these supply chain players are concerned about the potential geopolitical and economic climate that will be waiting once we have fully emerged from the pandemic and the new challenges they may present for the industry. Supply chain issues have continued to linger, inflation pressure is continuing to rise, and zero-COVID approaches in countries who are large players in global production, have resulted in business closures and shutdowns that further exacerbate the above issues.
The future of meeting and event partnerships
Across all of the players within the industry, partnership is the most important part of the process when organizing and executing meetings and events. Working with partners and people that you have built a strong relationship with is not only easier from a contractual standpoint, but from a humanistic standpoint because you’re connected to them with more depth. ALHI, Liberty, Accor, and BCD M&E all agree that it’s not what you say to people that makes a difference, it’s how you make them feel. Making your partners feel valued through conversation and open communication is key to maintaining those relationships and making them stronger.
The experiences that are created within this industry aren’t possible without consistent partnership and collaboration. It’s become incredibly clear how connected everyone is within the industry ecosystem. Which means it is important to take time to understand how different partner’s businesses have changed, understand their limitations and challenges, and learn ways to alleviate outlying pressures that they experience so we can all move forward together. These last few years have forced this entire industry to come together to have honest conversations that fortified our relationships with suppliers, customers, and partners. If we keep talking and discussing things collaboratively, prioritizing transparency, and working together, we’ll be able to solve any challenge that gets presented to us with strong partnerships to support our evolution along the way.