Rising Costs, Stagnant Budgets Continue to Challenge Event Planners

October 30, 2023

The top challenges event planners are currently facing include higher costs (75.7%), followed by finding availability (51.3%), while timely approval from decision-makers, responsiveness, service levels/quality, contract negotiations and budget management were all closely ranked in third place, according to the Q2/Q3 Meetings & Events Pulse Survey

Designed to shed light on the challenges and trends currently shaping the meetings and events industry, the biannual report by Global DMC Partners (GDP) covers top-of-mind industry topics, including current challenges, the importance of sustainability, in-person event attendance and hiring trends. 

Conducted throughout June and July 2023, the Pulse Survey collected responses from 200 global meeting and event professionals, 60% of whom are U.S.-based, 19% in the U.K. and Europe and 9% in Canada. Respondents were divided between corporate/direct planners (58%) and agency/third-party planners (42%).

What's Trending: 5 Takeaways

1. Budgets Not Accounting for Rising Costs: While escalating costs continue to pose a significant hurdle for event planners, rising expenses are not necessarily causing budgets to rise. In fact, fewer than 40% of planners reported budget increases for meetings and incentives in 2023. Uncertainties loom over 2024 budgets, with only 37% anticipating higher meeting budgets and 26% expecting increased incentive budgets. More than one-third of planners report that their meeting and incentive budgets will remain stagnant from 2023 to 2024. 

Inflation emerged as the top reason budgets are changing but not necessarily getting larger. In some cases, rising costs are forcing meeting and incentive budgets to increase, however, rising costs are also causing some budgets to decrease as organizations seek to allocate spending elsewhere. Additionally, for 71% of planners, rising airfare costs are still impacting meeting and event destination choices.

Global DMC Partners President and CEO Catherine Chaulet

“Increasing costs in relation to budgets continues to be a primary challenge for many of our clients, as evident in the recent survey responses,” said Global DMC Partners President and CEO Catherine Chaulet. “With nearly all aspects, from airfares to F&B, increasingly getting more expensive, planners are required to be more creative with the ways they spend their budget.”

2. Attendance Struggles Persist: Nearly half of respondents (46%) reported they are seeing about the same number of attendees at their in-person events as compared to previous years. More than one-third (36%) reported an increase in attendees at their in-person events, while 18% reported seeing fewer attendees than in previous years.

3. Growing Commitment to Sustainability: Compared to the previous year, there was a notable shift towards sustainability, with 20% more organizations integrating sustainability goals into their travel, meetings and event programs. More than three-quarters of international respondents (78%) reported they are building sustainability into their programs, with 44% of U.S. and Canadian respondents reporting the same. Reducing plastic usage and waste emerged as the top sustainability goal for meetings and events, followed by using locally sourced food options and carbon tracking and offsetting.

Sustainability was also a factor in event destination selection, with 50% reporting that sustainability was occasionally a factor and 30% saying it is a consistent factor in choosing destinations for upcoming programs. 

4. Hiring and Staffing Trends: Of those who are hiring, 72% are hiring planning roles, and there was a noticeable uptick in the hiring of freelancers. The industry’s approach to staffing also stood out, with a preference for hybrid or work-from-home models, setting it apart from other sectors that are calling employees back to full-time office environments.

5. Regions of Interest: Since the last Pulse Survey report, the interest in global regions for 2024 programs increased, most notably in Asia, South America and Central America.

Check out the full GDP Meetings & Events Pulse Survey here.


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