Hotel closures and staffing reductions are corporate meeting planners’ top concern for the future of in-person or hybrid events, according to a recent survey conducted by the Northstar Meetings Group. Nearly 59 percent of respondents identified that factor as a top worry, followed by nearly 55 percent who cited the impact of the pandemic on airline service, routes and pricing. 

2021-03-31 Planner Concerns

Northstar Meetings Group conducted the survey Feb. 16 to March 4, 2021, and received responses from 121 corporate planners. BTN, like Northstar Meetings Group, is owned by Northstar Travel Group. 

Respondents were asked to rate their concern about particular factors on an ascending scale of one to five, and 59 percent rated hotel closures as four or five. Constraints on meetings budgets were rated similarly by 53 percent, with inflexible legal or financial contractual terms rated that way by 52 percent. Fear of contagion from Covid-19 was cited by nearly 45 percent of respondents.

Virtual Still Prominent

Additionally, one in four respondents said all the events they were planning would be virtual-only, with another 47 percent reporting that more than half would. More than 47 percent were in the process of planning hybrid events with another 53 percent intending to do so.

Nearly one in four respondents were not confident that virtual events would meet their constituents’ needs. 

In-Person Events Poised to Return Q4

Meanwhile, fewer than 25 percent of respondents said they were not at all focused on planning in-person events, but the other 75 percent were in various stages of the planning process, from researching potential new events to booking or rebooking in-person events. 

More than 41 percent expect to hold their next in-person or hybrid event during the fourth quarter of 2021, with another 10 percent waiting until 2022. Less than 25 percent expect their next in-person or hybrid event to occur during the third quarter. 

More than 77 percent said they would require masks and adherence to all protocols for their next in-person event. Twenty-five percent reported that they would conduct rapid Covid-19 tests on-site, while 19 percent said they would require proof of Covid-19 vaccination.

Once in-person gatherings no longer are restricted, 46 percent of respondents expect to hold about the same number of in-person or hybrid events than they did before the pandemic, but 29 percent anticipate planning fewer events. Just 13 percent reported they expect to plan more. For these events, 40 percent said the size of the live portion of the audience would be smaller than before Covid-19, with one in three saying attendance would be about the same. 

Industry Recovery Inducements

More than four in five respondents (81 percent) projected the rollout of Covid-19 vaccines would lead to a quicker economic recovery for the travel and meetings industry. Only 4 percent said that it would not. Nearly 40 percent said they did not believe the federal stimulus was sufficient to support the recovery of the industry; half said they weren’t sure.

Nearly 65 percent agreed that meetings industry organizations or related businesses should hold in-person meetings, provided that all restrictions and protocols are followed and enforced. Nearly 16 percent said they shouldn’t.

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