It’s that time of year in our industry (though I’m pretty sure it’s always that time): Conventions and conferences are marked on our calendars—a few already in the rearview mirror, many still on the horizon. We’re an industry of travelers and assemblies—which makes perfect sense since we’re leaders in that space. We like to meet, to share, to convene and to learn from one another. And the hotel industry has no shortage in offering opportunities to do that.

I read something very recently, which I’ll share here: Meetings and events drive roughly 300 million room nights annually in hotels, underscoring the significant impact and demand generated by these types of gatherings in the hospitality industry. A few short years ago, during and post pandemic, it was a much darker picture. But with that, thankfully, behind us, we’ve emerged with a more confident optimism replacing the cautious one of the not-too-distant past.

Based on another (North American) survey that crossed my desk, respondents said they expect 81% of their meetings and events in 2024 to have an in-person component, with 63% fully in-person, and 77% expect that their attendee numbers will return to 2019 levels this year.

A few days ago, I received a report on top trends impacting the meetings industry, and I wanted to share a few key findings with you here. According to an annual State of the Meetings & Convention Industry study, the top 2024 trends that will have the biggest impact on the industry are:

Soaring costs, staffing issues and hotels’ unwillingness to negotiate.
• 24.7% of meeting planners feel their negotiating powers with hotels will decline.
• Destination selection is heavily influenced by hotel experience, with planners rating hotel meeting facility service levels (81.6%), hotels–quality (81.6%) and hotels–rates (80.2%) as high or extremely high importance.
• Planners are trying to find creative solutions to ballooning F&B costs, including sourcing boutique event centers as an alternative approach to using hotel meeting space. 17.1% of planners expect service levels to decrease at hotels/meeting venues in the next three years.
• Planners are seeking AI solutions to make meetings more efficient and improve attendee experience. Additionally, some respondents shared that they plan to use AI in sourcing venues/destinations.

Increased attendance figures for live meetings, but also a wider impact on destination selection due to politics.
• In-person and hybrid events are demonstrating their staying power with planners anticipated to host an average of 6.4 live events and 4.5 hybrid events in 2024.
• 63.5% of planners expect attendance figures for live meetings to increase over the next three years (up 16 points year-over-year).
• 61.2% feel the impact of local politics on destination selection will also increase.
• More than half (53.2%) of planners agreed controversial issues caused planners to reconsider destinations.

A growing responsibility to align their members’ values with both the destination and their meeting agenda.
• 64.1% agreed with the statement: “A destination must align with our members’ values in order to host our meetings/events.”
• More than half anticipate an increase in the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion of meeting attendees and speakers (60.3%), the importance of green practice certifications (55.5%) and an increase in corporate social responsibility initiatives (52.0%) being incorporated into agendas.
• 77.7% are open to sourcing new destinations in the U.S. they had not considered before

This year’s study underscores a transformative trend in the meetings industry, according to the founder of a collaborating partner of the survey—a growing need for events to resonate with attendees’ values on every level. To sum that up: We all know it’s critical to be successful in our space, but keep in mind, it’s also important, more than ever, to be meaningful.

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