HTS Highlights: Marketing that Brings Meetings

The Hospitality and Tourism Summit welcomed Erin Francis-Cummings, president and CEO of Destination Analysts, to speak on the most recent data on meetings and events in the United States. This data research was first launched in 2017, and has been ongoing throughout the years, resulting in 300 completed surveys. For 2020, it was conducted in June and is scheduled to be conducted again in October. 

The pandemic has changed every aspect of human life–event and meeting planning are no exceptions. Francis-Cummings takes a deep dive into what the industry is looking like, starting off with its generational makeups. 

Generational and Regional Demographics 

The Silent Generation makes up the smallest group, with only 1.3%, and then jumps to a whopping 33.7% from the Baby Boomers, and an ever larger percentage by Gen X, making up 43.3%. Younger generations make up a smaller percentage, with millennials at 21.3% and Gen Z a 0.3%. These generational demographics are key to understanding what direction the industry is heading towards. 

In terms of regions, the Midwest is seen as most popular for events and meetings with a 30.0% preference, followed by the West with a 29.3% and the South east at 21.3%, It is important to note this aligns with how each region was impacted by the pandemic. 

Postponed and Cancelled Events

Research has shown that cancelled events increased dramatically after March 2020, due to pandemic restrictions. Many events were postponed to occur at a later date, and few of those were rescheduled for 2020. About 60% of events were postponed to April 2021 or later. Live meetings will certainly change in the upcoming year, and a majority of planners are hoping to see a return of live meetings in the first half of 2021. While the phrase “returning back to normal” is different for everyone, most planners have a positive outlook that normality will be reached in the second half of 2021. 

However, as optimistics as the industry can be, we have come to the realization that some live meetings will never return. About 73% of planners agree with the fact that some events will stay online and no longer be live. It is expected that hybrid sort of meeting will become the new norm. When asked if virtual/ live meetings will be the norm, about 77% of planners agree. Both online and on-site events have changed drastically, and planners need to be aware of the shift in the industry to successfully maneuver through the changes. 

How are we feeling? 

While no one has been left untouched from the changes, some groups are managing the circumstances in different ways. Some groups are ready to move towards live events with specific regulations set in place. It is predicted that the first groups to return to live events will be Sports groups/organizations, corporate and private sector businesses, and religious organizations. 

Despite when groups are ready to return, new requests for meetings have risen. For example, social distancing protocols is the highest request for live meetings, following health and safety protocols at venues. However, there is a level of uncertainty of whether or not people will follow regulations. 

Live meetings are definitely missed, and are likely to never be fully replaced. Event and meetings planners need to understand the circumstances that have been handed to them, and find the best way to cultivate a personal connection through whatever means the event is executed.

Written By: Jessica Narvaez