Challenging event inflationary times call for fresh ideas. When 200 destination management company (DMC) experts gathered for Global DMC Partners’ annual 2024 Connection event at Conrad Punta de Mita in Mexico—co-hosted by local DMC partner Tropical Incentives—the first order of business after a sunset beachside welcome reception that demonstrated the power of locally rich activations was tackling the biggest problem meeting planners face today: budgets.

Catherine Chaulet pointing on stage at DMC Connection
Catherine Chaulet

“Inflation continues to hit the meetings industry hard. Communicating this data to C-levels and clients can help manage expectations and justify budgets,” said Catherine Chaulet, president and CEO of Global DMC Partners, from the stage.

The U.S. MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions) market is expected to grow by 7.8 percent between 2024 and 2030, according to Grand View Research, and the European market is on a similar track. How can meeting professionals get creative to save costs while preserving impact? Beyond the wisdom of involving DMCs early in the planning process to facilitate better coordination, this is what we gleaned from the learning hubs.

Event Structure and Scheduling

The who, how long and in what format can impact the bottom line tremendously. Attendees at a roundtable discussion suggested:

  • Consider shorter agendas, fewer days and a streamlined timeline.
  • Decrease the number of participants. This helps with costs and can improve engagement for those who do attend.
  • Produce as a hybrid event, with some attending in-person and some virtual sessions for a wider audience. This reduces travel, housing and F&B costs.

Location and Timing

people dancing in outdoor space at at DMC Connection

Where and when you produce your event can impact the mood, attendance and price tag. Asking potential attendees in advance can help inform the sourcing process and lead to better outcomes. Other factors to consider:

  • In addition to survey feedback, mapping where attendees are located and researching flight options can help to narrow down a location almost everyone can reach with the fewest travel delays.
  • Scheduling during off-peak times such as mid-week and off-season for popular transient destinations can lead to lower prices and offer blended travel opportunities for those who want to stay later or arrive early to enjoy the destination. Similarly, avoid busy times such as major holidays or expect to pay elevated prices.

Cost Containment

Budget-saving measures don’t have to impact attendee experience. DMC experts shared tips for containing costs without skimping on the program.

  • Like most things in life, timing makes a difference. If you can contract far enough in advance, you can secure better rates before supply is squeezed.
  • Negotiate with vendors and hotels for terms such as reduced management fees and service hours, things attendees can’t see and you might be able to handle internally.
  • Work with local tourist boards and partners to secure sponsorships for elements that will add meaning to an event, such as a local activation, entertainment or gift.

Creative F&B

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  • Calculate the cost of using on-site catering versus having meals catered.
  • Work with your chef to source locally and seasonally for fresher, less expensive means.
  • Watch portions and guest counts closely to reduce waste and keep costs down.
  • Include healthy choices to satisfy wellness-focused attendees.

Sustainability and CSR

  • Provide and promote water stations as an alternative to water bottles.
  • Engage in community service and local charitable activities. Connection facilitated a CSR activation to help paint a local school.

Next year’s Connection takes place in June at Grand Hyatt Baha Mar, co-hosted by Sunbound, GDP’s DMC partner in The Bahamas.