WASHINGTON, D.C. — Global DMC Partners has released results from its most recent Meetings & Events Pulse Survey, focusing on the widespread impact of the COVID-19 global pandemic to the MICE industry.

Conducted April 27 through May 4, 2020, the survey polled 374 respondents from the meetings-and-events industry. While the survey touched nearly every part of the globe, the majority of respondents were based in the United States (64 per cent), followed by Europe, the United Kingdom (10 per cent respectively) and Canada (seven per cent). Participants included third-party planners (30 per cent), independent meeting planners (16 per cent), associations (13 per cent), as well as planners in technology, finance, pharmaceuticals, insurance and law.

Key findings included: 

  • 97 per cent reported their 2020 meetings and events were impacted by the COVID-19 crisis
  • 56 per cent predict they will operate 25 per cent or less of their 2020 live events
  • while many live events are pivoting to virtual this year, virtual is not considered to be a long-term replacement for face-to-face programs, with live events and hybrid solutions continuing to be in high demand

2020 Budgets and Events

Compared to GDP’s previous Q1 2020 survey, 20-per-cent more planners are reporting a decrease in their meeting budgets for the remainder of this year and 17 per cent are reporting a cutback in their incentive budgets. These decreases are most apparent amongst planners outside of the U.S.

Only 13 per cent stated all 2020 programs have been cancelled. However, 88-per cent predict some portion of their 2020 events will be, or are already, postponed to 2021 and 37-per-cent said at least half of their programs have been postponed to 2021.

When Will Events Return?

The survey found the majority of respondents were unsure about their budgets for 2021, however 64 per cent predict they will host live events sometime between August 2020 and January 2021.

From the incentives side, most programs (52 per cent) are still moving forward in 2021. For those not proceeding, only five per cent are being replaced by gifts, four per cent by cash, three per cent by a virtual incentive event and two per cent with the option of a personal trip.

The Future of Face-to-Face Meetings

Global DMC Partners asked respondents what new initiatives they will add to live programs, to which the vast majority (90 per cent) indicated they will be adding hand-sanitizer stations, placing restrictions to maintain physical distancing between participants (79 per cent), reducing attendee counts (61 per cent) and eliminating buffets to serve plated or boxed meals (66 per cent).

Other new practices include only contracting hotels, venues and event vendors with verifiable sanitation processes (60 per cent), requiring face masks for attendees (40 per cent), providing temperature checks (34 per cent) and providing medical and EMT personnel on staff (28 per cent). And, more than 51 per cent said that they will offer a virtual option in addition to live events.

Further, 23 per cent said they’ll have programs closer to home, eliminating international travel in the short term, while 11 per cent responded that they’re considering ground-transportation changes and five per cent are considering private chartered flights.

Finally, respondents were polled for the top challenge they expect to face once the COVID-19 crisis dissipates. Travel restrictions are predicted to be the top challenge 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’m confident of a strong rebound of face-to-face meetings and events,” says Catherine Chaulet, president & CEO, Global DMC Partners. “[Next year] 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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