May 03, 2024
By Mike Fletcher

During March, Northstar Meetings Group and Cvent surveyed planners across EMEA, North America and Asia Pacific. Mike Fletcher looks at the need-to-know insights for every hospitality professional. 

European planners are twice as likely to scrutinise your hotel or venue’s sustainability policy than their North American counterparts, according to the latest Northstar/Cvent Meetings Industry PULSE Survey.  

This is just one of the startling findings from the first European, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) version of the survey, which includes a Global Edition, comparing responses from EMEA, North America, and Asia.

Carbon-conscious policies guide 65% of European meeting planners and 56% of Asia’s planners. However, only 31% of North American planners say their organisations have sustainability policies, 56% admit that they don’t, and 13% say they don’t know. 

When European planners were asked what their policies prioritised, 94% said ‘minimising all types of waste at events’, 81% said ‘minimising the use of single-use plastics’, and 78% said ‘taking steps to reduce the carbon footprint of our events’. 

Almost a third (32%) of European planners said they could only work with suppliers who can show they operate sustainability. 40% said they now include sustainability requirements on their RFPs, and 14% said they’d only use hotels and venues with eco or sustainability certifications. 

State of the industry 

Across EMEA, the value of face-to-face marketing and doing business is increasing, with 60% of planners saying that their organisation or client’s organisation places ‘significantly’ or ‘somewhat’ more value on meetings and events now than before the pandemic. 

This has resulted in almost half (47%) of European planners actively booking new events and 28% actively sourcing new suppliers. 

However, APAC and North American planners are more optimistic overall about the state of the industry. 

For example, 71% of APAC planners say that their organisation or client’s organisation places ‘significantly’ or ‘somewhat’ more value on meetings and events now than before the pandemic. For North American planners, it’s 61%. 

Why are meetings and events important?

Networking is the most important factor driving demand for events worldwide. This is followed by an event’s ability to deliver education and drive profitability.  

Networking as a top priority for staging events marries with other recent studies too. 

According to the 2024 Q1 Freeman Trends Report, attendees view networking as most valuable when they can speak with industry experts (81%), meet new contacts (68%) and exchange ideas with peers (64%).

By offering planners great networking spaces, along with technology to facilitate connections, entertainment that will keep the conversation flowing, plus food and drink that’s easy to consume while talking, your venue or service will increase its appeal. 

Planner pain points

It’s important to understand planner pain points. As a hospitality professional, there may be something you can offer. At the very least, you’ll have greater empathy and understanding of why a deal didn’t go through. 

Unsurprisingly, budget constraints still lead the way, closely followed by the higher costs of goods and services. 

This again matches other comparable studies. Interviews carried out as part of the 2024 Global Meetings and Events Forecast from American Express GBT found that 67% of budgets had increased this year but only 13% had increased by more than inflation.

Poor service levels at hotels and venues came third on the PULSE study’s EMEA planner pain points chart. It’s a barrier to business, which every hospitality professional should be able to do something about by raising standards, ensuring adequate training and embracing AI to improve the guest experience and collaborate with planners more effectively. 

Challenges working with hotels and venues

When dealing specifically with hotels and venues in EMEA, costs were the main concern for planners, with high accommodation rates, food and beverage costs higher than expected, and AV costs higher than expected, each receiving over half of the survey vote. 

Other difficulties are evident. Venues are slow to respond to RFPs (48%), contracts are not flexible enough (47%), plus a lack of venue staff (41%) were all raised concerns. But accommodation, F&B and AV costs outweigh everything.

“Hotels and their in-house providers (AV/Tech, for example) continue to decrease staffing and increase service charges. Hotels and vendors need to partner with planners, not see us as transactions.” - Anonymous Planner

The same is true across APAC and North America too. Higher than-expected F&B costs were the gravest concern for North American planners. For APAC planners it’s the high costs of accommodation. 

Interestingly though, EMEA-based hotels are quicker to respond to RFPs than those in North America. The average response time is 3-4 days, with 20% of EMEA planners receiving a response within the first two days and 14% of North American planners being made to wait over a week. 

However, another anonymous planner complained that: ‘European hotels respond more quickly to RFPs because their policies have become more rigid. It’s take it or leave it.”

Concluding highlights

Other highlights from the March 2024 PULSE research include:

  • More than half (54%) of EMEA planners plan to produce events that are either fully virtual or hybrid this year. It rises to 56% for APAC planners.
  • Optimism is middlingamong event planners in EMEA, with just under a half more optimistic than two months ago. One in five are less optimistic and over a third describe their outlook as unchanged. 
  • 40% of European planners expect to organise bigger conferences this year, but most - six out of ten – expect numbers to be the same or lower. 
  • More European planners are satisfied with their AV and tech support than they are with their other partners. 

For more insights on planner priorities and the state of the meetings industry in EMEA, APAC and North America, grab your copy of the Northstar/Cvent Meetings Industry PULSE Survey here.

Mike Fletcher

Mike Fletcher

Mike has been writing about the meetings and events industry for almost 20 years as a former editor at Haymarket Media Group, and then as a freelance writer and editor. He currently runs his own content agency, Slippy Media, catering for a wide-range of client requirements, including social strategy, long-form, event photography, event videography, reports, blogs and ghost-written material.

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