After two years, numerous lockdowns, and countless pandemic protocols, in-person meetings and events finally seem as though they’re back to business – albeit with a new set of realities.
Yes, meeting planners are still facing some COVID-19 challenges, but they’re also dealing with event trends such as rising costs, limited availability at hotels and venues, and smaller hospitality staffs – many filled with new or inexperienced professionals.
Still, meetings are happening, attendees are attending, and the business of making connections is back at full steam — even with the challenges and complexities of today’s industry. That’s worth celebrating! According to the latest Northstar/Cvent Meetings Industry PULSE Report, event professionals are, indeed, celebrating with a surge of meetings. Seventy percent are booking or actively sourcing new events, while reschedulings and cancellations are down to just 8%. In fact, most planners report their next event will take place this summer – a surprisingly high volume of meetings in the near term.
Perhaps as a result of all this activity, half of the planners surveyed are finding it hard to find space and dates. It’s not the only report to see this event trend: In June, the monthly Cvent Source webinar found that RFP volume (Americas) from the Cvent Supplier Network (CSN) had rebounded nicely from the Omicron variant, to continue to trend upward. The data also showed a resurgence for many of the strong major metro markets, such as Chicago, Washington DC, New York, Boston, and San Francisco.
Of course, if you’re working sales at a hotel or venue, you probably don’t need a report of event trends to tell you that you’re busier than ever. But there are a few findings that might help you meet planner needs a little bit easier, and win a few of the RFP requests that are piling up in sales queues. Keep reading for three of the top tips from the June report.
Discover 3 event trends all hoteliers should know
Event trend No. 1: Rising costs are a concern.
Of all the event trends happening right now, this should come as no surprise. Almost 80% of planners say rising costs are having a material impact on their events, and that cost containment is their top priority. But what is surprising is how they’re dealing with the crunch: Just 28% report that it has caused them to delay, reschedule, or cancel an event. More interesting is that planners continue to safeguard the attendee experience. A strong majority (62%) are finding cost savings in areas that will not diminish attendee experience, and just 25% are thinking about increasing per-participant pricing. Hoteliers should also note that almost 90% of planners were not planning to reduce attendance as a way to minimize the cost of the event.
Hotels and venues should consider offering additional incentives to planners that elevate the experience. Are there special deals for shoulder dates, or restaurant discounts? Look for ways to sweeten the experience of the event without adding to the cost in order to keep attendees on the property for more days. Hospitality sales, marketing, and operations teams can also help by being more efficient and transparent.
Event trend No. 2: Hotel/venue relationships with planners need more attention.
Labor shortages are impacting planner relationships. There’s not much doubt about that point. It’s for good reason: The American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) reported in late 2021 that nearly 500,000 hotel operations jobs would not return. A Joblist survey found that a third of former hospitality workers said that reentering the industry wasn’t even on the table. As a result, some hotels and venues are struggling to meet increasingly compacted planner needs, and event pros are noticing. Over 50% say that the lack of hotel or venue staffing is a concern, with sentiment about the issue increasingly critical. After all, planners have a long list of events and lots of work to do. They need adequate support from the hotel or venue they select, yet over 30% said that they’ve had to delay, reschedule, or cancel an event because their selected hotel or venue wasn’t adequately staffed. That’s a trend that increased from 18% in the March Northstar/Cvent Meetings Industry PULSE Report. Almost 40% say that their hospitality contact is gone.
The issue of staffing shortages may also be compounded by lack of experience. During the 2022 Cvent CONNECT conference, hoteliers and DMO professionals talked about how there’s a clear need to be more efficient regardless of staff size; newer planners and hospitality professionals need experienced staff to bring them up to speed. Said one planner in survey comments: “Not only is staffing an issue, but trained staffing is an issue. Many of the experienced staff are gone, and with them institutional knowledge and relationships.”
Hotels and venues can reduce busy work and focus on building relationships with planners. Be mindful that planners also may be new and won’t know the basics about your property; keep it in mind when responding to the RFP request. For example, many hotels win events by doing small but thoughtful things, like sharing event space diagrams in the RFP response. Most of all, follow up and ask questions. Don’t reject an otherwise attractive RFP because the dates are booked; reach out and ask if alternatives are a possibility. If not, that’s okay. Work on building the relationship with the planner.
Event trend No. 3: Great and affordable attendee experiences are paramount.
Return on time/experience/investment for attendees has a weighted average of 4.1/5 in the PULSE Report, making it one of the most important factors for planners right now. The good news for hotels and venues is that putting together a great experience doesn’t have to be expensive. Event planners may be looking for something simple, quick, and creative. They might know exactly what they want to do but have a tight budget for site visits – and not a lot of time to pull the event together. The key is to efficiently meet their needs and anticipate opportunities to make their event even better.
Ultimately, many planners count on hotels to do just that. Perhaps that’s one reason why they ranked hotels highly (3.4 out of 5) in terms of overall supplier satisfaction. This expectation comes out clearly in the recently-published 2022 Cvent Planner Sourcing Report for North America: More than half (55%) of respondents want hotels to suggest creative uses for space within the venue. They also want creative food choices, event space designed for streaming, intimate and flexible event spaces, outdoor space, and locally sourced food.
The way forward from two long years spent away from other people is, not surprisingly, all about relationships. That’s the takeaway from the most recent Northstar/Cvent Meetings Industry PULSE Report. Planners are interested in rebuilding what was lost by furlough and starting new relationships through exciting events; all with a careful eye on COVID-19 and the bottom line.
For more findings, and to read the full report, go to the Northstar/Cvent Meetings Industry PULSE Report hub.
Written by Brian Chee, first published on Cvent.