While the hospitality industry is anticipating growth in 2024, economists are cautioning about the back half of the year for the U.S., keeping CEOs on their toes about what is to come. 

The Group Customer Pulse

The results from the Q4 2023 Encore Planner Pulse survey show that 47% of meeting professionals are increasing budgets for 2024 and 40% expect to remain flat. This is a similar outlook to what we heard in early 2023 and illustrates a baseline understanding that the cost of doing business has increased and therefore budgets must increase.  

When asked if forced to cut budgets, top areas included décor, entertainment, and off-site excursions. As a hospitality professional, that gives me a sense of relief that our group customers feel the value that the hotel, food & beverage and event technology experiences deliver to the success of their event.   

But here’s where we still have our work cut out for us: When asked what areas they are most challenged by their stakeholders to defend their spend, both event technology and food & beverage rank in the top five areas of concern.  

What we take away from that is that the path to continued growth will require us to innovate and effectively communicate the value of the total event experience to an organization, with event technology and food and beverage as priority components.  

Insights For the Future

In 2023, Encore embarked on a journey with a leading research firm to conduct qualitative research across business leaders and influencers around the globe, as well as in-depth quantitative research among event professionals. What we’ve learned: the shifting cultural values of our time that we’ve all felt, seen, and read about in the news over the last two years are quickly actualizing. 

That shifting culture should impact how we serve our teams and our customers in 2024 and beyond. 

Insight #1: There’s increased interest in the individual, societal, organizational, and cultural impact of events.  

Reasons to believe:

  • 74% of global adults believe businesses have a responsibility to make society fairer  
  • 39% report that ‘being memorable’ is the second most important thing in events  

Business implication:
There’s opportunity to cater to the value system of the attendees by innovating aspects of sustainability and DEIB throughout the F&B and event technology experience to incrementally deliver a “return on emotion” that makes events more memorable. Delivering ROI and ROE arms our customers with more data to support their business case for meetings.

Insight #2: Emerging tools for AR, AI and virtual experiences will remain buzz-worthy and begin to see more adoption, but human connection remains a top value.

Reasons to believe:

  • 32% of global adults believe “connecting with others” is a top three priority for events, behind “being memorable”  
  • 69% believe “humanness”— seeking to connect with real people — is an extremely or very important personal value  

Business implication: While the value system that in-person, real-life connection is paramount, it will inevitably need supplementation from technology to deliver the wow factor, personalization and immersive qualities that have taken hold in the zeitgeist. Innovations in event technology and production are a vital part of total revenue growth and the customer experience. 

Insight #3: A sense of belonging is non-negotiable at events.

Reason to believe: 52% of global adults believe belonging is an extremely or very important personal value

Business implication: We should evaluate how we are training our teams to continue to elevate personalized, empathetic service and exceed customer expectations in every facet of the event experience. Encore has taken a page from our esteemed hospitality partners and spent the last year entrenched in training for customer experience with unmistakable improvements, most notably marked by being named as the Official Event Solutions Partner to Forbes Travel Guide. Much like how Sage Hospitality continues to cultivate new and exciting experiences within the walls of their properties and the communities in which they reside. In 2024, we see the opportunity for all organizations, including ours, to elevate CX through the marriage of smart internal technology and strong cultures of belonging that will make our teams’ workdays more effective, fulfilling, and connected to our greater purpose to serve our customers and our communities. 

Key Questions to Ask Your Management Team:

  • How invested is the hotel in training for the next year? 
  • How invested are your key partners to deliver the service that matches your brand promise? 

When looking to maximize event trends to drive incremental revenue, the path can seem daunting to owners, management companies, and the venues themselves. Knowing the end-user customers, keeping your hand on the pulse of the industry and ensuring you have the right partners can ensure a smooth journey toward enhancing revenue streams, providing value, improving overall client satisfaction. 

Key findings from the Encore 2022 Winter Planner Pulse

With the world of events ever-changing, staying up-to-date on the latest industry trends is an essential tool for crafting successful experiences. To help ensure your event design, programming and format resonates with today’s audiences, Encore surveys meeting and event professionals quarterly to capture a closer look into today’s event landscape and to maintain a pulse on where meeting event needs are heading.

Read on to learn key insights from our latest survey.

Human connection and engagement are the most impactful values for in-person events

When it comes to the most valuable components of this type of event, networking and relationship-building topped the list.
Connecting audiences to organizations’ missions and providing training and education were two other aspects of in-person events that planners ranked highly. What do these insights mean for your event? It may be worthwhile to focus on these core points with your in-person programming or weave them into the content to be delivered.
It’s worth noting that whether your goal is to drive professional relationships or deliver educational sessions, none of these activities occur in a vacuum. For example, educating attendees on an organization’s mission can help them feel more connected, give them a purpose for being there, encourage engagement with one another and inspire action. Strategic educational programming also provides a great atmosphere for learning and personal growth, which can set the stage for more intentional networking conversations and greatly enhance the overall experience.

In-person events will continue to increase with each new quarter

While meeting and event trends have rapidly evolved over the past few years, our research shows that in-person events have returned as the primary format – a trend expected to gain momentum as we move forward in 2023. This remained consistent with our 2022 Winter Planners Pulse.
Meanwhile, interest in hybrid and virtual gatherings is expected to plateau, with hybrid events forecasted to make up just 15 percent of all events held from the First Quarter of this year to the Third. Similarly, only 14 percent of all events held in the First and Second Quarters are anticipated to be virtual. This number is expected to drop to 11 percent in the Third Quarter.
Planners have not only confirmed the most valuable aspects of in-person events, as outlined in the section above. They’re also prioritizing this format’s benefits over virtual and hybrid advantages when designing experiences.

Most planners expect their audience numbers to grow this year

According to 62 percent of the planners we surveyed, audience sizes will continue to increase in numbers. Four of 10 planners believe the growth in participant numbers will be greater than 10 percent, demonstrating a surge of interest in events overall.

This data brings a welcome implication — people are actively interested in physically attending conferences, meetings and other events, making now the perfect time for you to invest more resources into their event design. Get ahead of the curve by ensuring you have the best solutions to deliver successful outcomes.

Six of 10 planners will see budget increases — driven by food and beverage, room rates and transportation costs

Last year saw tremendous advances in our industry despite the rise in in-person costs, driven by inflation. Luckily, the majority of meeting professionals will likely also see an increase in their budgets, with six out of 10 planners expecting their event budgets to be higher this year than in 2022.
Seventy percent of these budget hikes are predicted to exceed 10 percent, with the uptick largely attributed to food and beverage expenses. Higher rates for hotel stays and transportation are secondary factors that are likely to contribute to the improved budgets as well.

DE&I is an important ESG area of focus

Environmental, social and governance (ESG) objectives remain an opportunity in 2023. We asked planners about four major ESG issues to collect feedback on the role they play in event planning. Those issues were: Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DE&I), environmental sustainability, social responsibility, and local legislation that aligns with organizational values.

Our findings? Approximately half of event professionals (55 percent) view DE&I as the most important ESG area to consider while selecting venues. This research speaks volumes about how event professionals now prioritize DE&I when making critical event planning decisions.

When it comes to selecting a venue, event professionals regard the other ESG attributes in the following order of importance:

      • Local legislation that is aligned with organization values (45 percent)
      • Environmental sustainability (45 percent)
      • Social responsibility (42 percent)

In terms of choosing an AV/event technology partner, event professionals prioritize the following attributes behind DE&I:

      • Environmental sustainability (40 percent)
      • Local legislation that is aligned with organization values (39 percent)
      • Social responsibility (35 percent)

Insights-led meeting planning for more engaging experiences

Leveraging today’s top trends helps you create more successful events and empowers you to make smart decisions about how to elevate the details behind your event production and design to achieve your specific goals. Download our report today for more data-informed guidance on the factors your peers are considering when planning an engaging and memorable event. It covers the latest information you need to know about our industry’s top trends, so you have the insights you’ll need to deliver an experience that truly resonates with your attendees in today’s event landscape.

Interested in personalized solutions that can help optimize your next event? Request a free consultation with our event experts! We’d love to discuss your specific needs and help you develop a transformative experience that achieves your event goals.