Meeting and event professionals say they are feeling more optimistic and well-equipped to plan high-quality meetings and events and adapt to any ongoing uncertainties, according to the 2022 Global Meetings and Events Forecast.
The 11th annual report, produced by American Express Meetings & Events, a division of American Express Global Business Travel (GBT), found that two-thirds (67 per cent) of respondents believe in-person meeting levels will return to their pre-pandemic numbers within one to two years.
In-person meetings and events are projected to grow in 2022, with 81 per cent of events expected to have an in-person element. Another indicator of industry growth is the 64 per cent of global meetings and events professionals citing increased budgets for next year. However, the industry is neither expecting nor planning a return to business as usual, and instead professionals intend to take lessons learned during the pandemic to improve the value, effectiveness and sustainability of future events.
“While we are all eager to see the pent-up demand for meetings and events fully realized, we recognize that recovery will not be a straight line and we can’t get there by simply repeating what we’ve done in the past,” said Gerardo Tejado, GBT’s senior vice president of value development and general manager of meetings and events. “As we look to 2022, we expect the optimism, resourcefulness and innovation we’ve seen in the sector over the past two years to lead to a new era of thoughtful, tech-forward, responsible M&E strategies.”
The forecast finds the value of internal meetings is increasingly recognized by organizations, with internal and training meetings projected to see the largest growth in 2022. Despite the rise of in-person meetings and events, virtual and hybrid formats will continue to play a key role, according to global survey respondents. Hybrid meeting formats will continue to gain traction as they help expand reach to wider audiences, create a built-in virtual contingency plan, and increase return on investment. An increased number of attendees is expected across all event types and formats.
The environment will be a priority for most meetings and events programs in 2022: 83 per cent of respondents said their organizations take sustainability into account when planning meetings and events. The sustainability practices most cited by respondents were minimizing paper usage and applying energy-saving and waste reduction measures for their 2022 meetings.
There are regional differences:
Meeting professionals in North America are strongly optimistic about a recovery in 2022. At the time of the survey, 74 per cent ranked optimism level as 8 or higher, on a scale of 1-10. The region was the leader in resuming in-person meetings and events, with 31 per cent already doing so in June/July this year – and at the time were most likely to have in-person events scheduled for 2022 (54 per cent).
Meeting professionals in Europe are guardedly optimistic about 2022 – 59 per cent had an optimism level of 8 or higher on a scale of 1-10; the lowest of the four regions. However, 48 per cent of European events in 2022 are expected to be in-person-only, the second-highest region after North America. And although respondents predict a slower recovery than in other regions, 86 per cent are confident that in-person attendee numbers will return to pre-pandemic levels within five years.