The good news is that 2022 has been a productive year for the meeting and event planning industry. We have seen a resurgence of activity for meetings, events and incentives. We need this resurrection so that planners can start to feel productive and confident again. We need it because it means that corporate businesses are starting to consider live meeting opportunities. We need it because suppliers are becoming very active again with RFPs for 2022 and beyond. Overall, we are experiencing a fast recovery from pandemic and positive business conditions for the year ahead and beyond.
Unfortunately, there are still major challenges for planners and businesses to overcome. One of the major issues is staffing. A lot of planners, including planners with 25 plus years in this industry have left the industry because of the pandemic. There’s been a considerable loss in experience and expertise that is no longer available to the industry. The impact of this loss is felt throughout the industry in the following in some key areas:
Service levels have dropped – with limited resources planners are very stretched to meet the business timeline demands for RFPs and operations management. It impacts risk management, communication strategies and back of the house support. It’s difficult to meet the quick turn-a-round demand for RFPs and program delivery and still in a lot of cases, hybrid meetings management.
Safety and security – although COVID-19 pandemic protocols have been dropped by a lot of governments, for meetings, and events it still means that risk mitigation is a major consideration when considering and planning for all meetings and events. It means assessing the current state of multiple destinations and be prepared to respond to a crisis or disruption. Although this was always part of the planner tool kit, it now entails a lot more research, evaluation and detailed plan. If you don’t know what to do in the first 10 minutes of a crisis or disruption, you’re not prepared.
Rising costs – this is exerting great pressure on planners as they negotiate not only the best price but top value for their clients. It takes time and a strategy to achieve maximum results. Planners are stretched for the appropriate time to do high level negotiations. Suppliers are also looking at ways to offer better rates and value, however, the pandemic has created distribution and supply issues that have resulted in higher prices for everything from food and beverage, transportation, accommodations, audio visual, meeting space and staffing. The key to the best negotiation outcome is going to require that clients understand that last minute is not going to give you the best value. Clients will need to do more long term planning to achieve the best budget outcomes.
How planners charge for their services – with limited resources and higher client demand for short term meetings and events, planners have had to evaluate their fee structure and be more pro-active in communicating it to their clients. Retainer fees are becoming more common especially with last minute RFP requests. Planners no longer have the flexibility of doing work without betting paid for their time. After all, there is an opportunity cost associated in the provision of services that needs to be taken into consideration.
A lot of venues and hotels have closed because of the pandemic. This has created a shift in the current market landscape from a balanced market pre and during the pandemic to a seller’s market that has meant reduced negotiating power. It also means that increase for products and services will see an increase from 5 – 10 per cent or higher until we see a more stabilized distribution and production process. Let’s hope that a year from now we’ll have a more balanced marketplace in all aspects.
Business conditions are trending to be among the highest for the meetings and events industry. This is great news indeed! However, given the current challenges it’s going to take time for the meeting and event industry to get caught up and to being fully and comfortably operational to meet the business demands.
Maria da Cunha, CTC, CMP, CITP, is president of daCunha Voyages. She is a subject matter expert in the meetings, events and incentives industry with more than 25 years in the creation and management of meetings, events and incentives.