Honorable Mention Chapter Award
Honorable Mention Chapter Award

Meetings Outlook: Budgets, pricing and wellness

Aug 9, 2021, 09:04 AM by Michael Pinchera
Yet another impressive shift from the most recent Meetings Outlook survey: the majority (55%) of respondents now project positive budget/spend over the next year. This data point hasn’t been above 50% since summer 2019.

Budgets and price increases

Yet another impressive shift from the most recent Meetings Outlook survey: the majority (55%) of respondents now project positive budget/spend over the next year. This data point hasn’t been above 50% since summer 2019.

That projected budget/spend growth is especially important as prices for many meeting/event-related expenses have risen significantly this year. The greatest increases are being seen in car rental and airfare, with, respectively, 24% and 13% of respondents citing a price increase of more than 25%.

“When looking at budgeting, I need to budget much higher than I did for 2019 or 2020 because EVERYTHING has gone up,” says Jill Kopecky (MPI Tennessee Chapter), corporate talent buyer, Neste Live! A Live Nation Company. “Hotels, food, rental cars, etc. Because the nature of my business travel is to oversee my clients’ events, we are just accepting the increases as something we have to put up with. However, I am doing more research to find the best deals on flights, hotels and rental cars.”

While Stefania Mura (MPI Italia Chapter), director at CS Events, is not yet seeing the price increases reported by others in the survey, she does expect to contend with these in the near future.

“After an initial hesitation when suppliers wanted to attract buyers, they are now realizing that corporations have not spent the majority of the meetings/events budgets—there is some money to spend and they want (rightly or wrongly) to try to recuperate a bit of the loss they faced during the lockdowns,” Mura says.

Kopecky is seeing similar approaches even down to the consumer level.

“I think that right now hotels and CVBs are anxious to get events and corporate groups into their cities again so they are offering more incentives or benefits for this year, but I see that increases in overall pricing will be coming,” she says. “We are seeing it in the entertainment industry with pricing for entertainers, tickets, etc. While people have money right now from not spending anything during 2020, that pattern isn’t sustainable, and people are going to be more selective about going out to eat, attending shows, going to conferences or even vacationing.”

Anderson notes that while different clients are adapting in different ways, “One common theme to help with audiovisual costs has been to charge attendees for virtual/hybrid event attendance rather than offering the content for free. Most of our groups with meetings have updated their budgets, at least for 2021, to include additional supply costs and have increased registration pricing accordingly where able.”

Additionally, she’s seen groups eliminate some concurrent sessions in order to save on audiovisual costs, “[Although] this was more due to the uncertainty of registration numbers/revenue than price increase, as our audiovisual partner really worked with us to make the event affordable.”

One way that Kopecky has been impacted by price increases is that her employer no longer covers staff membership fees to professional associations and, similarly, registrations costs for events such as WEC or IMEX America.

“I believe in the power of MPI, so I’ve personally paid for my membership for the past two years, but I didn’t attend WEC and I won’t be going to IMEX America this year,” Kopecky says.

Greater focus on wellness

With all of the talk about building back better, it’s encouraging to see the majority of respondents (63%) expressing a greater interest in wellness-specific content at meetings/events. In fact, only 4% of respondents are less interested in onsite wellness than prior to the pandemic.

“Sustainability and wellness are the most significant [trends we’re seeing] and we try to work hard on the first especially in the type of program we are proposing and in the selection of suppliers and try to include a wellness element into any event whether meeting, incentive or congress,” Mura says.

Throughout the pandemic, she notes, everyone spent more time indoors—many exercising less—and this has an effect on physical and mental health.

“Re-establishing an equilibrium is imperative in facing the [industry recovery] in the best possible way,” she says.

Meetings Outlook is supported in partnership with IMEX Group. Download the Summer 2021 Meetings Outlook report.

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