Two-thirds of meeting professionals have reported the recovery of the hospitality industry to more than half of 2019 levels and one-third reported having reached beyond recovery to 80% of 2019 levels, according to new research by IACC’s new report, Meeting Room of the Future Barometer Late—November 2022.
In the report of 98 global venue operators, Europe (including Sweden, the United Kingdom, Denmark, Belgium, and the Netherlands) and the Americas are showing encouraging signs of a meetings industry increasingly seeing itself in a better place as the weeks pass by.
“The latest Meeting Room of the Future Barometer clearly points to the fact that the industry’s recovery continues to grow, despite ongoing geo-political and economic challenges,” said Mark Cooper, CEO of IACC, in a press release. Meetings in general may be on an upward path, but there are many other changes in the industry in the report that are worthy of note.
Hybrid Is Down
In 2021, when asked about the percentage of events that would incorporate a virtual element, 30% of venue operators said 90% or more of their live events offered access to a virtual option. This dropped to 19% when asked for 2022 projections earlier this year and that percentage continues to drop, as in late November, only 9% of respondents reported 90% or more of their live events having a virtual element.
Moving forward, more respondents from the Americas—35%—reported that they made “major investments” in technology for virtual participation, as compared to Europe, which only 21% of respondents made the same major investments. The remaining percentage was either “little investment,” which took up the bulk of responses at 50% and 62%, respectively, or no investment at all.
Despite this, the report makes clear that the availability of hybrid has saved many events from not having its original speakers. Seventy-three percent of respondents from the Americas reported added hybrid at the last minute to accommodate remote speakers and 60% reported adding hybrid at the last minute due to travel issues with attendees. For European venue operators, 48% have added hybrid for speakers at the last minute and 31% have done so for attendees.
Hospitality employment has been a contentious topic since the onset of the pandemic. Not only were many let go as a result of less foot traffic in hotels and venues, but the following “great resignation” resulted in many more leaving voluntarily.
Restaffing in the industry has remained a problem since, and according to the study, venue operators are slightly more cynical than when surveyed in spring 2022.
Earlier this year, 40% of respondents reported that they believed staffing levels would reach pre-pandemic levels, 15% believed by the year’s end and 4% said it would never return. In the latest fall report, 31% now believe staffing levels are at pre-pandemic levels, 5% believe it will return to pre-pandemic levels at the end of the year and 19% said it will never return to 2019’s volume.
Forty-one percent of European respondents have reported that their events have already reached pre-pandemic levels, while 23% of respondents from the Americas say they’ve returned to pre-pandemic levels.
Naturally, more respondents from the Americas—21%—project pre-pandemic-level meetings will return after 2023, compared to Europe’s 14%, the case being that many believe the industry has already made it. Twenty-one percent of respondents from the Americas and Europe responded “never” to events returning to pre-pandemic levels.
Social Responsibility and Sustainability
Meeting professionals from Europe have been leading environmental social and governance (ESG) efforts in the hospitality industry.
Increasingly, venue operators are seeing requests for credentials in the realms of social responsibility and sustainability. In Europe, 59% of respondents reported seeing increases in requests for social responsibility credentials and 66% requesting environmental/sustainability credentials. In the Americas, 20% of respondents have seen requests for social responsibility credentials and 33% have seen requests for credentials for sustainability.
The same dynamic was observed when looking at requests for carbon footprint reports from clients. In Europe, 21% of venue operators reported collaborators wanting carbon measurements, which only 10% of respondents are able to provide. The Americas had a more even request-ability to provide ratio, albeit lower in both areas, at 6%.
The Americas and Europe both have nearly equal social responsibility programs, such as food waste management—74% and 83%—ability to accommodate attendees with disabilities—95% and 97%—and a diversity, equity and inclusivity policy—91% and 90%.