Nearly three-quarters of meeting planners are moving their face-to-face events to virtual or hybrid next year, according to the most recent Meetings and Events Pulse Survey conducted by Global DMC Partners.
This despite the majority of surveyed planners predicting the return of in-person events in the first half of 2021, though 57 per cent believe events will be downsized in the future, with the largest events topping out at 250 attendees. A majority also believe average event attendee numbers will decrease in 2021, citing issues such as adhering to physical distancing requirements and the level of comfort with travelling and attending events in general.
Eighty-two per cent believe a coronavirus vaccine is the most important factor in the return of face-to-face events.
Other than COVID-19, top industry concerns are financial and budget constraints, and safety and security.
“While the majority of the industry feels that a COVID-19 vaccine is the key to being able to resume hosting in-person events and meetings, there are a lot of health protocols that can be put into place to ensure a safe, successful event in the meantime,” says Global DMC Partners president and CEO, Catherine Chaulet. “Many planners we heard from will be incorporating hand sanitizer stations, space and attendee number restrictions, served and boxed meals instead of buffets and temperature checks at registration. These preventative measures will help as the industry gets back on its feet.”
Many companies are still not currently allowing employees to freely travel for business. Forty-seven per cent of U.S. companies and 40 per cent of non-U.S. companies are not allowing travel. On a positive note, 55 per cent of those surveyed believe their companies will allow employee travel in Q1 or Q2 of 2021.
“Once travel resumes more broadly, I am confident that we can tackle any new challenges as an industry to resume hosting and attending in-person meetings and incentive programs,” says Chaulet.
For the majority of respondents, budgets for meetings, conferences and events are either decreasing or remaining the same for 2021. Thirty-eight per cent of planners are reporting a decrease in their budgets from 2020-2021, and 32 per cent are reporting no change.
When it comes to incentives budgets, 36 per cent report no change, while 32 per cent say they will have decreasing budgets for 2021.
The survey was conducted Sept. 14-30, and involved the polling of 447 people in the meetings and events industry. Of these, 90 per cent were planners versus vendors or suppliers. While the survey had respondents from nearly every part of the globe, the majority were based in the U.S. (41 per cent), followed by the U.K. (26 per cent) and Mexico (16 per cent). Participants included third-party/independent planners (39 per cent), pharmaceuticals planners (13 per cent), as well as planners in associations, technology, finance, insurance and law.