As the global meetings and events sector continues to recover, a focus on balance, belonging and sustainability will create many opportunities in the industry.
The pandemic had a significant impact on meetings and events, but people have largely returned and attendance is expected to rise in the years to come. This is great news for the sector but it also brings fresh challenges and opportunities that will alter the way events are booked, planned and executed.
“The pandemic was a defining moment for the industry. We were thrust into a world of virtual gatherings, with in-person events grinding to a halt. Yet, we adapted and evolved. That evolution continues today and the one thread that connects all the trends we forecast is the human connection. Today, more than ever, it is about the human need to meet, share and thrive,” says Sophie Hulgard, chief sales officer, Accor.
Accor’s report, Meeting Expectations: The Future of Meetings & Events, addresses the transformation that the M&E sector has undergone in recent years and explores the fundamental shifts impacting the industry as it continues to evolve and recover.
“The future of the meetings and events industry is a story of resilience, innovation, and transformation. The trends explored in this report are not merely forecasts; they are blueprints for success. As we navigate this ever-changing terrain, let us do so with the spirit of collaboration, connection, and a relentless commitment to excellence. Together, we will shape a future where every meeting and event is a catalyst for progress, a source of inspiration and a place for belonging,” says Hulgard.
According to the report, these are the five key trends the industry can expect in the the coming years.
1. Softer Productivity
“Work hard, play hard” is making way for a growing focus on well-being, flexibility, nutrition, and time management to create a harmonious balance between life and productivity. In MICE, experiences are being curated around the nourishment and wellness of participants, including the downtime agenda.
2. Selling Belonging
Despite the rise of digital, human connections are still essential for business. Digital is powerful, face-to-face is valuable. The coming years will see an increasing number of planners move beyond the idea that events are simply about getting people into a room together, instead considering how they can forge deeper connections between attendees, cementing relationships and encouraging repeat bookings. As well as quantifiable ROI (return on investment), such as closing deals, companies also seek positive ROX (return on experience) to reinforce a sense of belonging and deliver a valuable experience.
3. Designing Experiences
The very definition of an event is being rethought in terms of structure, content and venue. By creating experiences rather than simply providing meeting rooms, we can help embed ideas, memories and different ways of thinking – as with the vast C2 Immersive Floor at Pullman Paris Montparnasse, allowing us to create events that are transformative and creative.
4. Green Gatherings
Sustainability is now at the heart of meetings and events with a strong focus on reducing carbon emissions and waste. For example, our Event Carbon Reduction Charter for meetings and events covers a range of measures from recycling bins to food waste & temperature management. Beyond emissions, sustainability also increasingly involves sparking meaningful engagement with local communities and fostering environmentally friendly conversations – whether by recommending local transport or raising awareness of local culture and ecosystems.
5. Disruptive Technology
As AI leaps forwards, it has the potential to transform the meetings and events sector through its capacity to instantly crunch data – for example, finding the best date by analyzing the availability of participants, identifying great speakers and even writing invites and content. How can we use data to offer amazing, immersive, interactive experiences? If used wisely, AI undeniably holds great value to offer all sorts of possibilities for next-gen meetings and events planners.
The report also notes continued growth is forecast across all meeting and event sizes in 2024. Three-quarters (78 per cent) expect the number of small and medium sized meetings (under 100 delegates) to increase next year, and the same number said they expect the number of meetings of more than 100 delegates to increase. More than half (57 per cent) predict a rise in large meetings (over 300 delegates) to increase and almost two-thirds (78 per cent) said it would be “very important” for their industry to attend exhibitions, conferences and tradeshows in 2024.