Global DMC Partners, the largest global network of independent destination management companies, has released the results of its most recent Meetings & Events Pulse Survey, which sheds light on the widespread impact the COVID-19 global pandemic has had on the MICE industry.

Conducted April 27-May 4, the survey polled 374 respondents from the meetings and events industry, of which 93% were event planners versus vendors or suppliers. Participants included third-party planners (30%; independent meeting planners (16%); associations (13%); and planners in the technology, finance, pharmaceuticals, insurance and legal segments.

While the survey included event professionals from across the globe, the majority of respondents were based in the United States (64%), followed by the United Kingdom (10%) and Canada (7%).

Here are some key findings:

  • 56% of respondents predict that 25% or less of their 2020 live events will take place; however, 13% said that all 2020 programs have been cancelled.
  • While 69% of live events plan to go virtual or incorporate virtual aspects this year, virtual is not considered to be a long-term replacement for face-to-face programming. However, live events and hybrid solutions continue to be in high demand.
  • Compared to GDP’s previous Q1 2020 survey, 20% more planners are seeing a decrease in their meeting budgets for the remainder of this year, while 17% have experienced cutbacks in their incentive budgets. These decreases are most apparent among planners outside of the U.S.
  • 88% predict that some portion of their 2020 events will be or are already postponed to 2021, while 37% said that at least half or more of their programs have been postponed to 2021.
  • While the majority of survey participants were unsure about their 2021 budgets, 64% predict that they will host live events sometime between August 2020 and January 2021.
  • Most incentive programs (52%) are still moving forward in 2021. For those not proceeding, only 5% are being replaced by gifts, 4% by cash, 3% by a virtual incentive event and two percent with the option of a personal trip.

Regarding what respondents expect face-to-face meetings to look like going forward, Global DMC Partners asked respondents about new initiatives they will be adding to their live event programs. Here’s what they learned:

  • 90% will be adding hand sanitizer stations.
  • 79% will be placing restrictions to maintain physical distancing between participants.
  • 61% will be reducing attendee counts.
  • 66% will be eliminating buffets and serving plated or boxed meals.
  • 60% will only contract with hotels, venues and event vendors offering verifiable sanitation processes.
  • 40% will require face masks for attendees.
  • 43% will provide temperature checks.
  • 28% will provide medical and EMT personnel on staff.
  • Over 50% will offer a virtual option in addition to live events.
  • 23% will hold programs closer to home, eliminating international travel in the short term.
  • 11% are considering ground transportation changes.
  • 5% are considering private chartered flights.

Looking ahead, travel restrictions are predicted to be the biggest obstacle for planners based outside of the U.S., while general fear is the primary concern for U.S. planners.

“With COVID-19 treatments and vaccinations becoming more of a reality, the implementation of health and sanitation protocols worldwide, and seeing many government travel restrictions lifted, I am confident in a strong rebound of face-to-face meetings and events,” said Catherine Chaulet, President and CEO of Global DMC Partners.

She continued, “2021 is already looking strong worldwide with high demand for meetings and events taking place in Q2. Full back to normal is expected to start late 2021 once the entire travel supply chain, from airlines to hotels and all hospitality related services, are back in place.”

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