Nobody really needs the finding of a global study to tell you that
meetings business is recovering. Planners everywhere are busy and all
are predicting a bumper 2023.
what is not clear is whether those predictions can hold strong if we
take into account the global financial situation, the lack of
experienced staff working in the sector, high airline prices and, in
many destinations, venue availability.
The American Express Meetings & Events division’s study is based
on a survey of 580 meeting and event professionals from around the world
who were asked questions in May and June 2022.
Is that too early to get any true predictions for a period that is another six months away?
Certainly for the United States and Europe that timeframe works. In
May and June 2022 both regions were well and truly open for business.
Back then we saw on our TV screens and in the media that Covid-19 was no
longer slowing down business and leisure travel. Everybody, it
appeared, was getting back to travelling and meeting again.
The Asia Pacific at that time was far quieter. Yes, business travel
was starting, but for many countries, only just. Japan has just fully
reopened in the past few weeks and China remains, as we are all aware,
pretty much closed.
So what is this survey telling us? It is telling us that it is a
statistically and globally representative picture of the 2023 meetings
and events industry.
But again, when many working in the Asia Pacific
were just coming out of their pandemic slumber, could these survey
respondents clearly predict how the following year could be if they were
being asked mid-2022?
Barely four months on the global economy is far different than what
it was in June 2022 and it could very well have a big impact on the
meetings and events sector no matter how much people want to get
In North America, where respondents reported the highest percentage
of completely remote workforces, internal and small and simple meetings
have already surpassed 2019 levels.
Meeting planners in the North America region are seeing the highest
increase in group rates for 2023 in both group air (7.8%) and hotel
(7.4%) compared to other regions. North America is also the only region
expecting a decrease in hotel room and meeting space availability.
In Europe, the survey determined the region had the second highest
number of respondents who say they expect in-person attendance numbers
to revert to pre-pandemic levels in the near future (69%), behind Latin
In the Asia Pacific, survey respondents were more circumspect in
their prediction of future activity, with a 61% expectation that
in-person meetings will return to pre-pandemic levels “in the near
A part of the challenge in the Asia Pacific is certainly air
capacity. But on airlines, this survey says: “… by 2023 most major
routes will be back in service, and travelers, both business and
leisure, will be more confident about booking international flights.”
That is certainly not what we have been hearing. Talking to Adam
Leslie, general manager of events at 212f in New Zealand this week, he
and his team are struggling to get their people on planes and to other
countries because he says Air New Zealand’s flight capacity is at
something like 60% of where it was pre-pandemic.
“Because New Zealand didn’t open its borders for so long airlines went elsewhere and they haven’t come back yet,” he said.
Air ticket prices are higher and at the moment clients are willing to pay. But what if the economy takes a turn for the worse?
The big winners
What can be agreed upon from this survey is that the big winners
could be employees in all regions. Workers are all “zoomed” out and
companies are planning to spend more on staff meetings in 2023. Findings
• 45% would spend on internal meetings that included overnight accommodation
• 27% would spend on internal meetings that included international air travel
• 40% would spend on internal meetings being held in a different city than the corporate office
It will be interesting to see whether the Asia Pacific will keep pace
with the rest of the world in this area in 2023 as well. Only time, of
course, will tell.