Where are we on business events recovery in APAC?

Report after report has purported to paint a picture of the global business events climate, but is the timing of such surveys too soon for APAC?

Meeting professionals expect in-person events and budgets to increase in 2023, according to latest survey findings from American Express Meetings & Events.
Meeting professionals expect in-person events and budgets to increase in 2023, according to latest survey findings from American Express Meetings & Events. Photo Credit: Adobe Stock/THANANIT

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.

But 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 together.

Key findings

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 America (78%).

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 future”.

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 were:

• 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.