The way we live, work and interact has been reshaped in recent years and the ripple effects of these changes have created new opportunities in the meetings and events sector," said Sophie Hulgard, chief sales officer, Accor. "The pandemic was a turning point for the industry. We were thrust into a world of virtual meetings, where face-to-face events came to a standstill. However, we adapted and evolved. That evolution continues today, and the common thread running through all the trends we predict is human connection. Today, more than ever, it's about the human need to gather, share and thrive," he said.
In the aftermath of the pandemic, there were fears that the events industry would struggle to regain its audience. Today that audience has largely returned and is expected to surpass its 2019 peak in the coming years. That's great news for the industry, but it also poses new challenges and opportunities that will change the way events are booked, planned and executed.
"Being in a room with people is important: it's powerful and valuable," Hulgard added.
Data from Accor's Meetings & Events Industry Forecast survey reinforces this predicted growth trajectory. Seventy-eight percent of respondents said their spending or that of their clients had increased since 2022, and 36 percent said it had increased by more than 25 percent. Looking ahead to 2024, growth is expected to continue, with 80% of experts surveyed expecting spending to increase in 2024, and 30% saying it will increase by more than 25%.
According to the Accor study, continued growth in meetings and events is expected in 2024 of varying magnitude. Three-quarters (78%) expect the number of small and medium-sized meetings (fewer than 100 delegates) to increase next year, and the same number said they expect the number of meetings with more than 100 delegates to increase. More than half (57%) expect an increase in large meetings (300+ delegates) and three-quarters (78%) say it will be "very important" for their industry to attend exhibitions, conferences and trade shows in 2024.
Confirming the value of in-person meetings (IRL), 33% of meeting planners expect to derive 40% more revenue from face-to-face meetings versus virtual, and the majority, 80%, would be unwilling to use videoconferencing to close deals in 2024.
Accor's new report, "MEETING EXPECTATIONS: THE FUTURE OF MEETINGS & EVENTS" reveals five trends that are expected to shape the industry's growth.
Softer productivity: The "work hard, play hard" ethos once associated with business and events is changing in line with the demands of new lifestyles.
Selling belonging: The meetings and events industry is about one thing: people. Human connection and fostering a sense of belonging are the cornerstones of successful event design.
Designing experiences: Event organizers are looking for return on their investment, but more than ever they are looking for ROX, return on experience.Green meetings: Positive impact is the differentiator and, more than ever, the industry has the green light to drive change. Green credentials are no longer an extra for events: they will be a decisive factor in taking care of business.
Disruptive technology: In-person conferencing is now a vital way to bring together people who may only see each other through laptop screens.
"The meetings and events industry has proven its resilience, innovation and adaptability," says Karelle Lamouche, commercial director of Accor's Premium, Midscale & Economy division. "The trends outlined in this report stem from the industry's DNA: face-to-face business matters. Human connection goes hand-in-hand with commercial success, it makes for stronger business. As the industry continues to drive recovery on a global scale, it is the commitment to forge meaningful connections, be a catalyst for commercial and cultural growth and create a sense of belonging that will ensure the industry exceeds its growth forecasts. Travel is back and, for the M&E sector, it is belonging and balance that will drive results in 2024," he concludes.