Meeting planners are still skeptical of AI use

Latest Northstar/Cvent survey shows rising costs, uncertainty around AI tools at work as top concerns among planners.

Northstar/Cvent Meetings Industry Pulse Survey as of 30 August 2023 had 533 respondents.
Northstar/Cvent Meetings Industry Pulse Survey as of 30 August 2023 had 533 respondents. Photo Credit: Adobe stock/LALAKA

New data from Northstar/Cvent Meetings Industry Pulse Survey has revealed that many planners have used AI tools, but fewer expect to use them in their work. Nevertheless, more than half expect to be trained on how to use new AI tools.

Some 44% of respondents’ organisations have experimented with new generative AI platforms such as ChatGPT, Bing, Bard, Azure, Claude and Project Spark, while 37% have not and 19% are not sure yet but will soon try.

Among the early adopters of AI, 42% are uncertain of its usefulness for planning, whilst 32% expect to use new AI tools for assistance in planning and producing events. The rest, however, say they are not expecting to do so.

Event spending for 44% of 533 planners surveyed as of 30 August 2023 will rise to offset costs next year. About 60% of them say they will increase by over 10%. The minority who are cutting budgets (16%) are cutting significantly, nearly half by over 15%.

Costs and budgets are planners’ biggest concerns. Some organisations are adding staff, but fewer than anticipated when the same question was asked two months ago.

Nearly one-third of planners are expecting budget increases without cost-management offsets. Overall, planners’ outlook remains optimistic. Only 11% of planners say they are less optimistic than they were two months ago.

The mid-summer months have seen a decrease in new event booking activity compared to two months ago and to August 2022, which was immediately post-Covid and at the height of recovery.

Time horizons for new bookings are beginning to distribute more evenly. The crush to book new events less than one-year out appears to be moderating.

Some comments from the survey:

· “I am very concerned with the huge increases in prices of all aspects of accommodations, services, AV, catering, transportation, all of the ‘destination’ fees, etc. Most of our clients cannot triple their meeting budgets from one year to the next, so we’re between a rock and a hard place with future meeting sourcing, negotiations and contracting.”

· “We are seeing improvements in hotel service levels. However, costs and cuts to travel budgets are increasingly challenging.”

· “We’re paying way too much for venues that are understaffed or staffed with inexperienced people and sub-par service. There’s a big opportunity for venues that can get this right.”

· “I'm hoping that we get an increase in our budget next year as this year's budget was reduced as we had assumed that the return to in-person events wouldn't be as quick as it’s been.”

· “I think attendees for meetings/events are starting to rebel against technology and models of service that are more self-serve rather than hospitality driven. Travel will be impacted if we move too far away from ‘in-person’ hospitality throughout the travel ecosystem.”

· “AI will play a big role in the future and those that embrace it early can leverage it for competitive advantage.”

· “The post-Covid recovery path for our return to in-person is unclear. While we saw nice growth from 2022 to 2023 our industry (health care) has some constraints and challenges that could impact travel budgets. It’s very hard to predict what growth is possible. We’re trying to get a better grasp on that.”

· “Hotels and airlines’ pricing along with the constant negative drumbeat surrounding travel from the media creates hesitancy at minimum and discontinued programmes at the maximum. Inexpensive destinations are winning the battle versus established destinations with traditional services.”