Although the travel restrictions and continued fear surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic have led to a rise in virtual events, the desire for face-to-face meetings and incentives has not decreased. This is among the key findings from the Q2 Meetings & Events Pulse Survey recently conducted by Global DMC Partners (GDP).
While 97% of the nearly 400 meeting planners surveyed responded that their 2020 and 2021 programs had been impacted by COVID-19, 64% predicted they would host a live event between August 2020 and January 2021. The planners reported that the general fear of COVID-19 and the increased travel restrictions around the pandemic continue to be top of mind, but that the desire for face-to-face meetings and incentives means these events will not be replaced.
GDP released the findings of the survey via a virtual forum held on June 24. “The Meeting Planner’s New Reality in the ‘New Normal’” was facilitated by Catherine Chaulet, GDP’s president and CEO. Featured panelists included Becky Cavanaugh, associate director of medical meetings and events for Syncos Health; Elliott Grant, director of Black Book; Kim Hester, vice-president of JNR Incorporated; and Margaret Stafford, meeting director for the American Bar Association Antitrust Law Section.
In response to GDP’s survey finding that incentive programs were moving forward (if postponed), several of the panelists stated that there is no strong alternative to an incentive trip because the personal connections they provide cannot be replicated virtually.
More than 700 meeting and event professionals registered for the forum, which also featured live audience polls. Top concerns for planners that came out of the live polls included:
- Convincing stakeholders to hold live or hybrid meetings
- Dealing with contract negotiations, liability issues and waivers
- Implementing and enforcing health and sanitation protocols
- Budgets and cost increases
- Lack of airlift
These responses aligned well with those from the survey, where planners also listed general fear, lower attendance, lower budgets and travel restrictions among their top concerns.
Among the recommendations to come from the panelists at the forum was the importance of tracking data — especially rapidly fluctuating costs such as airfare — and having a tiered plan of action based on the reopening phases of the host destination.