Report: Meeting attendance approaches 2019 levels

According to the "2023 State of the Meetings Industry" report from Knowland and ConferenceDirect, meeting volumes continued to rise in 2022, attendance is nearing 2019 levels and COVID is no longer a concern for most. Cost leveling, the return of business travel and budget increases are poised to support the recovery’s home stretch.

However, with the recovery also comes new challenges: Staff shortages and inquiry backlogs are affecting planners’ satisfaction with hotels and venues, while rising costs may cause planners to change their approach, including looking at new destinations. 

“While we have a way to go yet, the light is definitely shining bright towards a clearer sense of normalcy for our industry," Knowland CEO Jeff Bzdawka said in a statement. "As attendees are more selective about how they invest their time, the style and character of meetings are changing. So responding to these key trends and unique insights into what meeting planners need to be successful must be considered as we head into a year of greater profitability and positivity.” 

Among the highlights from the survey: 

  • Attendee size is no longer a major challenge and meeting volumes continue to rise. More than 70 percent of 2022 events had attendance at, or above, 80 percent of 2019 levels. Seventy-five percent of planners don’t expect the number of events and meetings to drop.
  • Staff shortages and inquiry backlogs are impacting service standards and rising costs are redefining goals. Fewer than 22 percent of planners are very or extremely satisfied with the response they get from hotels and venues. Fluctuations in industry service levels and rising costs of up to 50 percent are causing organizers to redefine event strategies and goals, including profitability.
  • Technology and diversity, equity and inclusion are key trends. Using technology to enhance the attendee experience is top of mind for planners. It remains a key trend, followed closely by a focus on diversity, equity and inclusion and a more casual meeting atmosphere.

“Even as fluctuations in the industry and rising costs are causing organizers to redefine event goals, meeting planners are evolving their strategies to meet these challenges head-on," said Larry Hanson, chief marketing officer, ConferenceDirect. "Our survey reveals that it is up to the venues to match those efforts through partnering on elevated meeting experience, meeting incentives and flexible contract terms.”