What are the new challenges and opportunities for event planners?

Optimism abounds as the event industry rebounds, but there's still much to unpack and adapt to in the post-pandemic landscape.

The new world brings a slew of new obstacles for event planners to overcome.
The new world brings a slew of new obstacles for event planners to overcome. Photo Credit: Adobe/Ravil Sayfullin

While the ill effects the pandemic wrought is mostly behind the events industry, and MICE planners forge ahead with new learnings and an agility born out of adversity to cater to the evolved demands, there are still a multitude of challenges that lie ahead. From the lack of flights and accommodations for delegates to APAC’s slower recovery, three event planners share their difficulties.

Gregory Crandall, senior vice president, global activation team, Pico

What is surprising is how the meaning of ‘hybrid’ has evolved, becoming an integral component of brands’ approach to events.

Has the Covid situation met my expectations? Yes and no, depending on the market. There are countries in APAC that have plans to go forward and that are taking steps to achieve a balance between community health and repairing local and international business. At the same time, other APAC countries are still searching for a path ahead, resulting in constantly changing goalposts and a weaker environment for events.

Beyond these localised obstacles, it’s beyond doubt that human interaction and live events will remain a priority for audiences and brands alike. It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that there’s been a shift toward a physical-digital hybrid approach. What is surprising is how the meaning of ‘hybrid’ has evolved, becoming an integral component of brands’ approach to events. It’s also notable how brands are expanding their hybrid toolkits to increase audience engagement.

The experience of the past two and a half years has brought new skills and considerations to the table. We now integrate online and digital audiences in our solutions and bring a higher level of health and safety to events, and we have learned to adapt more quickly and effectively. I’m extremely confident that demand for live events will continue to grow – but I also see an ever-deeper involvement and growth by engaging remote digital participants at these events.

Luther Low, regional operations director, Asia Pacific at CWT Meetings & Events.

Clients are... making decisions more quickly. We have fewer clients asking for multiple destination proposals and the approval time has been cut down significantly.
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There has been a sharp rebound in demand. While clients in APAC are still mostly looking at destinations within the region for their meetings and events over the next few months, we are seeing an increasing number of enquiries for incentives going to European destinations in 2023.

Clients are acutely aware of how demand is outstripping supply at the moment, with flights, hotels and meeting venues being snapped up at a rapid pace, so they are making decisions more quickly. We have fewer clients asking for multiple destination proposals and the approval time has been cut down significantly.

To a great extent, confidence has returned, especially for events being planned in destinations like Singapore, Australia and Thailand, where restrictions have been largely relaxed and where the Covid situation has become relatively stable.

Prices for meetings and events have increased in all regions across most categories of spend, fuelled by pent-up demand, a desire to build company culture, and an uncertain economic outlook. The cost-per-attendee in 2022 is expected to be around 25% higher than in 2019, and it’s projected to rise a further 7% in 2023, according to our latest price forecast.

As demand continues to outpace supply, it has become increasingly difficult to secure flights, hotels and meeting space. Furthermore, the ongoing labour shortage across the travel and MICE industries is causing significant disruption to plans.

All these factors have created a very volatile and challenging environment for M&E programs, but it’s also causing planners to think about how they can make their programmes more resilient – whether that’s through adopting strategic meetings management principles, making better use of data or leveraging virtual and hybrid formats.

Natalie Crampton, founder of Dubai-based TEC

We’re still factoring in hybrid, but it’s not pandemic-related, it’s actually more about cutting down on costs and considering the environment.

We are seeing shorter lead times – clients are being given the go ahead to do an event and they want to run with it and they want to go now, before there are any changes to travel rules or restrictions. Clients are also really excited to get back to face-to-face events and we’re seeing a lot of enthusiasm.

We’re still factoring in hybrid, but it’s not pandemic-related, it’s actually more about cutting down on costs and considering the environment. What's the point in flying a speaker over from the US for a 30-minute session – it’s a 16-hour flight to Dubai, versus hosting them on a virtual meeting platform. We're seeing quite a lot of this and it’s something we didn’t really have prior to Covid.

We are still being cautious with our plans B and C, we want to make sure that plan is there, and it signals we are confident with compliance, that we know what to do in the face of disruption. We also don't want to lose all the skills that we've learned over the last couple of years, from having hosted hybrid and virtual events.

Expectations for the next six months are looking very promising – this is shaping up to be our biggest year yet in terms of revenue, since we began operating in 2008.



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