New Research: Six Signs of Hope for Events Industry Recovery

June 02, 2022
IACC Meeting Room of the Future Barometer cover and logo.

In-person events are poised for a speedy comeback, if the data has anything to say about it, which means a meetings industry recovery is in full swing.

Since 2016, DCI has collaborated as research partners with the International Association of Conference Centres (IACC) to produce the Meeting Room of the Future study. The report unpacks the outlook of global meeting planners and industry specialists, providing insight into the constantly evolving world of corporate events. 

The 2022 edition draws on the ongoing experiences and outlooks of 87 venue operators from North America, Europe and Australia. All signs for a meetings industry recovery are pointing to a rapid one, with clear signs that in-person events are anything but a distant memory – but instead, a priority.

1. Revenue Returns in Full Force

Money talks, and according to the IACC research, it speaks volumes about the state of the meetings industry recovery. In 2022 meeting revenue is looking to be just 8% short of 2019’s levels, while in 2021 it was 45% below 2019 levels across the globe.

The takeaway is clear that 2022 is a turning point. As more events take place and bookings advance, the global pace of the events industry recovery is ticking up, albeit differently from region to region. The Americas, for example, are still expecting a 32 percent shortfall from 2019’s numbers, but Sweden anticipates just a 3 percent shortfall.

2. RFPs are Up, Up, Up

One way to be sure that the events industry recovery is on the rise is by the gradual increase in RFPs, or requests for proposals. Overall, meeting planners are increasing the number of RFPs to suppliers, having reached 57 percent of 2019’s levels across the globe by Q4 in 2022. A steady uptick of RFPs provides a strong signal for the industry that events are on the rebound.

Some regions like the Americas, at 81 percent of 2019 levels and the Middle East at 77 percent, are leading the way. Other regions lag, despite an upward trend, like Western Europe at just 44 percent and Asia Pacific at just 37 percent of 2019 levels. Despite regional disparities, the numbers are a positive sign for the recovery of the events industry.

3. Small Business Events Lead the Way

Reaching 58 percent of 2019 levels, small business events are leading the events industry recovery. These same meetings are also being booked with a shorter lead time. All of this is encouraging to the industry overall, which hopes to achieve pre-pandemic booking levels somewhere between the end of 2022 and 2024 depending on the region.

4. Human Interaction In High Demand

The IACC research also probed into the various factors that affect the motivation and decision to attend in-person meetings. A total of 45 percent of respondents ranked the value of human interaction as the most relevant reason to attend in-person meetings when compared to other factors.

This means that above cost, networking and travel considerations, attendees are above all interested in having that face-to-face interaction when attending a meeting or event. This is a positive indicator that the industry will be returning stronger than ever as humans crave the one thing that virtual events simply cannot truly provide.

5. Virtual Access On the Decline

Compared to 2021, live meetings and business events are offering less and less virtual access to their meetings. For example, 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%. 

This data does not suggest that virtual access will disappear. On the contrary, the research underscores how many venues continue to invest in their meeting spaces above all else in order to facilitate hybrid events. Instead, the data shows that our reliance on virtual events has decreased as planners increasingly look to in-person events that focus on face-to-face experiences.

6. In-Person Site Inspections Above All

For all the venue types explored in the IACC research, one thing is clear. Most venues prefer in-person site inspections. First-time clients and meeting planners still have virtual options, but about 50% of venues in general offer in-person visits exclusively. This is an exciting change that reaffirms a commitment to in-person events as recovery efforts steam ahead.

This data is just a snapshot of what’s happening during this stage of the events industry recovery process, but it’s a promising one. DCI has more than 60 years of working with destinations to help attract events and planners, driven by our industry-leading research. Get in touch with Stella Tsitsipatis at [email protected] to learn more about how our destination marketing agency can help place you at the top of meeting planners’ lists.