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Blog: Event marketing

When it comes to events, is local the new global?

22 November 2022 minute read

Ian Dickie
Managing Director

First the bad news.

A new study indicates a significant decline in international events throughout Europe, Asia and America.

The good news? This decline is being compensated for by an increase in domestic events.

The Business of Events (TBOE), an independent advocacy group for the events sector, has just launched the second edition of its Global Destination Report.

The report, conducted on behalf of TBOE by business events research agency SFA Connect, seeks to clarify how the industry has changed since 2019.

The survey was conducted during September and October 2022 among more than 1,100 destination respondents, most of which worked in small teams of between three and five people. And a significant majority of respondents have seen a decrease in the volume of their international business in 2022 compared with 2019.

At the same time, there has been a sharp rise in the number of regional and national business events in 2022 compared to 2019.

Roughly 75% of respondents in North America reported a decline in international events in 2022 vs 2019. The figure for Europe was closer to 65%, while respondents in Asia indicated a decline in excess of 80% – driven to some degree presumably by continuing Covid lockdowns and travel restrictions in China.

Chart showing change in global business travel 2019 to 2022

Source: Global Destination Report © The Business of Events

Overall though, these results are probably not surprising when one considers the general state of international travel right now.

Flying (and everything else) is less affordable than it used to be

Global travel prices jumped sharply this year and will continue to rise significantly throughout 2023, according to a recent report from CWT and the GBTA.

The price of meetings and events is expected to climb particularly sharply, while air fares and hotel rates are also being pushed up, driven by soaring fuel prices, staff shortages and inflationary pressures in raw material costs.

Air fares rose roughly 48% in 2022 compared to 2021. That’s right, 48% – with prices expected to rise a further 8.4% in 2023.

Hotel rates have risen steeply too in parts of the world, including a 22% rise in North America – and a forecast 31.8% across Europe, the Middle East and Africa – driven by an accelerated recovery coupled with continued capacity constraints.

Prices have already eclipsed 2019 levels in some areas such as Europe, the Middle East and Africa and North America and are expected do so globally by 2023.

The cost-per-attendee for meetings and events in 2022 is expected to be around 25% higher than 2019 and is forecast to rise by a further 7% in 2023.

All of this puts a significant strain on corporate travel and event budgets, making relatively local venues seem all the more attractive.

And it’s not just the money.

Flying is not as much fun as it used to be

The post-pandemic airline industry is a mess, and it will remain so in the medium term. The 9/11 attacks caused a 7% drop in overall travel. In 2020 travel was down 70%. Airlines fought to survive. That meant laying off staff, shedding pilots, selling and retiring aircraft.

These were decisions with long-term structural consequences. Now, as demand rebounds, we are paying the price. Expect high fares but also long queues, cancelations, disruption and sketchy service to continue for a while yet.

Flying is not as socially acceptable as it used to be

The so-called ‘flight shame’ movement has become more mainstream over the last few years, making frequent flying less socially acceptable. Back in 2019, Dutch airline KLM even ran a campaign encouraging people to consider taking a train or having a video call instead of flying.

Gen Z employees are especially sensitive to reducing their impact on the planet. And while they might be reluctant to give up personal world travel, talking yourself out of a business trip is a whole lot easier. At the same time, enhanced visibility at the point of sale for greener travel options, as well as carbon foot-printing and environmental impact assessment, actively assists in making responsible choices. Technologically, we’re at least 30 years and a good luck charm away from de-carbonising air travel in any meaningful way.

Companies have learned to live without it

Having saved billions from slashed travel budgets during the pandemic with only a marginal impact on operations, companies, banks, consulting firms and government offices will be hard pressed to explain why they’d return to their old ways.

A Bloomberg survey of 45 large businesses in the US, Europe and Asia shows that 84% plan to spend less on travel post-pandemic. A majority of the respondents cutting travel budgets see reductions of between 20% and 40%, with about two in three slashing both internal and external in-person meetings. The ease and efficiency of virtual software, cost savings and lower carbon emissions were the primary reasons cited for the cutbacks. According to the Global Business Travel Association, spending on corporate trips could slide to as low as $1.24 trillion by 2024 from a pre-pandemic peak in 2019 of $1.43 trillion.

So for many of us, it looks like we’ll be going to more events closer to home for some time to come. Bad for the old Air Miles balance, sure. But good for the continued viability of humankind. So, swings and roundabouts.