Shifting Perspectives Towards A Better Events Industry

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By: Karyl Leigh Barnes, Development Counsellors International

As in-person meetings are on the rise, it’s clear that the events industry is on its way back, faster than expected. The International Association of Conference Centres (IACC) published its “Meeting Room of the Future” report, in partnership with Development Counsellors International, citing data from 87 venue operators around the world. The numbers show that 2022 meeting revenue will fall just 8% short of 2019's levels, while in 2021 it was 45% below 2019 levels across the globe.

At the same time, 45% of respondents ranked the value of human interaction as the most relevant reason to attend in-person meetings when compared to other factors. As the value of interaction rises, the prevalence of virtual meetings has declined. Compared to 2021, live meetings and business events are offering less virtual access than before. While in 2021, 30% of respondents reported that more than 90% of their live meetings and events also offered virtual access, by 2022, this percentage dropped to 19%.

All of this progress for in-person events is good news for meeting planners and convention centers, but challenges still remain. As we build back our events industry, the research makes it clear that it won’t be the same before the pandemic changed everything, with new needs and expectations becoming more in-demand than before. Addressing them is not impossible by any means, but a shift in mindset for destinations and their meeting spaces will be necessary to bring about actual change. These three takeaways are just the start.

Growing Need for Community Outreach

First, while we talk often about the impact of tourism on local communities, destination organizations must look specifically at how the events industry plays its own role. They need to create more community alignment by ensuring that local policy facilitates processes to give back to the community.

If, for example, a convention center’s catering facilities cannot legally donate unused food and beverage to a local shelter, there is a disconnect that needs to be repaired. IACC research shows that just 54% of global venues reported the ability to donate unused food to local communities. These numbers, while on the rise, underscore how there is still a lack of total alignment between venues and local policy to facilitate more sustainable events.

Continued Need for Greener Practices

Second, when it comes to climate change, meeting planners are asking for environmental credentials. It’s not just good for the planet. It’s good business. IACC’s research shows that 46% of respondents to the 2022 survey received increased requests from clients to provide social responsibility and environmental credentials.

How a destination’s convention center and meeting spaces respond to these needs will determine whether or not they get booked at all. Destinations like Monaco, for example, underscore their sustainable events industry at every turn, helping them stand out as a leader.

The goal moving forward, however, is that every destination will engage with sustainable practices in the events industry, making it the status quo. Planners want that.

Evolving Need for Talent Support

Third, workforce development needs to be at the forefront of the events industry, which traditionally hasn’t invested much in its service workers. The good news is that talent shortages at the moment will go largely unnoticed in the events industry. According to the data, 92% of venues expect not to feel significant impact for the rest of 2022 and onward because of any staff shortages or supply chain issues.

How the industry takes care of this returning talent, however, remains pivotal. The recent IACC report’s findings suggest that more experienced workers are returning to work, with 76% of surveyed venues reporting that their new hires have, on average, over one year of industry experience.

While that’s exciting news, it also must spark a desire in employers to create trainings and programs to help keep these workers employed to avoid the mass layoffs provoked by COVID-19. Workers deserve equitable treatment, and the pandemic taught many that they can find it outside of the events industry. A sustainable events industry relies on having a reliable workforce that can pivot more easily within the organization to continue working and contributing instead of facing unemployment. Innovative training and diversification of tasks within roles can help shore up a role that may otherwise be expendable when disaster strikes.

We have to plant these seeds in destinations now, as recovery is still underway. It’s difficult to shift perspectives and ways of thinking while we are climbing out of the rubble of the pandemic, but it’s easier to map out a new floor plan before the walls and roof are even up. Let’s listen to the planners and listen to our local communities and rebuild an events industry that works for everyone.