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Costs Pushing Meeting Planners to Secondary Markets

Knowland and ConferenceDirect recently announced the results of their annual report, 2024 State of the Meetings Industry. The collaboration reveals insights to help industry professionals understand what meeting planners and event managers expect and will prioritize in 2024.

Planners are optimistic about 2024, with almost half expecting to book more meetings than in 2023. But the pressure is on to deliver high-quality events and game-changing attendee experiences while staying within budget. Rising costs combined with less experienced hotel staff are changing how and where planners book, resulting in smaller events, a move to secondary markets and modified experiences. Highlights from the survey include:

  • High price is a key challenge for planners – While planners are more satisfied with the responsiveness of venues, pricing continues to be an issue with 47% of planners. The rise in F&B and AV prices of up to 50% is a game changer for event design and production. Decision makers are leaning into their planners and intermediaries to aid in finding ways to do more within their budgets.
  • Secondary markets provide an opportunity for lower prices and high-quality experience – Organizers may consider changing destinations and venues to manage meeting costs. Groups are more likely to relocate events to alternative markets to maintain event quality and avoid moving down in chain scale. This shift presents opportunities for secondary and tertiary markets to attract new business by offering quality products, services, and attractive pricing alternatives compared with the top 25 market destinations.
  • AI and sustainability are on the radar but not influencing strategy – AI plays an increasing role in the meetings industry. Planners see opportunities for AI in expected uses, such as event mobile apps and virtual assistants. Yet, there is less excitement for AI in daily operations or game-changing digital applications, at least for now. And while sustainability is a top-of-mind issue, it has not yet made it into the KPIs of meeting organizers.
  • Hotel responsiveness has improved, but staffing levels and experience continue to plague events – Satisfaction with hotel responsiveness is up 100% compared to last year. However, planners are still impacted by staffing and experience levels at hotels. Hotel cluster sales models are cited as driving slower responses, and inexperience is causing longer contract periods. Planners point out that the lack of knowledge by both sales and operations staff causes them to work harder.

“Improvements in staffing and technology have enabled hotels to respond faster,” Knowland CEO Jeff Bzdawka said. “Twice as many planners are satisfied with venue responsiveness compared to last year. However, our industry is currently undergoing a reset, requiring an alignment of expectations with costs on both sides. It’s clear from this year’s survey that to unlock our growth potential, we need to work to apply our passion and solve these challenges together.”

ConferenceDirect CMO Larry Hanson said, “Planners are optimistic, with 42% expecting an increase in bookings this year. Compared to past surveys, the 2024 report shows a distinct and promising movement toward normalcy. Even still, hoteliers will need to balance the scales between profitability and service standards to encourage and re-build sustainable relationships with meeting planners.”
Download The Meeting Planner Survey: 2024 State of the Meetings Industry here.