AMEX 2021 Global Meetings and Events Forecast

Hybrid meetings serve as stepping stones to in-person events

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Following a year of uncertainty, the 2021 Global Meetings and Events Forecast from American Express Meetings & Events, a division of American Express Global Business Travel (GBT), found that businesses have quickly adapted meetings and events programmes to keep customers, prospects and employees engaged.

Despite a steep learning curve, meeting planners have learned to implement new safety and security protocols and accelerated the use of existing technologies across virtual, hybrid and in-person formats. Web conference platforms have revealed both their benefits and limitations, as planners seek out engagement strategies to combat virtual meeting fatigue. But everything comes at a cost: survey respondents indicated that 35% of virtual and hybrid events would require the services of a full-service agency. With the recovery of travel volumes expected to vary by geography in 2021, hybrid meetings will be a stepping stone towards meeting in-person.

Gerardo Tejado, Senior Vice President and General Manager for American Express Meetings & Events, said: “The value that global organizations continue to place on meetings and events is evident in the speed with which they transitioned from in-person to virtual formats.  The passion and innovation applied to keeping people meeting through the acceleration of existing technologies has been incredible for my team and I to be a part of.” He added: “The message in our Forecast is clear: meetings have to happen. There is an appetite to get back to meeting in-person as soon as it’s safe to do so, and hybrid meetings will be the catalyst.”

Looking ahead to 2021, planners must reconcile pent-up demand for in-person events with tightening and shifting budgets. As air fares and hotel rates still somewhat in flux, there is still hesitancy around advance booking.  To combat this uncertainty, suppliers are currently shifting to more lenient cancellation or change policies, often at no cost. Across the globe, planners expect small and simple meetings, taking place closer to home at local or regional destinations, to return faster than other meeting types at 21% globally, followed by internal meetings at 18%.

The 2021 Forecast is based on a survey of more than 560 meetings and events professionals and interviews with 16 industry experts. The survey and interviews took place in August and September of 2020. Respondents represented corporations, associations, buyers, and suppliers on five continents and in 37 countries. The result is a statistically and globally representative snapshot of what to expect in the meetings and events industry in 2021.