The return to in-person meetings has been trending over the last year. This is expected to continue well into 2023, according to a new report, “2023 Global Meetings and Events Forecast,” by American Express Global Business Travel (Amex GBT).

In the report, consisting of 580 global event professionals from five continents and 23 countries, it was found that all aspects of the meeting sector are increasing, including interest in sustainability, attendance, meeting spend and diversity, equity and inclusion. While trends are increasing all across the board, the rate at which they’re increasing regionally—in North America, Europe, Latin America and Asia-Pacific (APAC)—varies.

More Meetings

Although all meeting types are expecting increased attendance in 2023, in-person meetings in particular are expected to see the greatest. Global in-person attendance is predicted to rise 3.3% for conferences and tradeshows and 4.2% for small meetings; internal meetings are expected to see the largest increase globally, at 4.5%.

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Of the regions, Latin America is expected to see the greatest increase of attendance, whether in-person, virtual or hybrid, at more than 5% for all meeting types. Seventy-eight percent of Latin American respondents said they expect in-person attendance to reach pre-pandemic numbers in the next one or two years.

Virtual and hybrid meetings, which saw much attention at the height of the pandemic, are expected to see less substantial increases moving forward. Most respondents reported that they will place most of their focus on in-person meetings, with 29% of meetings in North America and 33% of meetings in Europe expected to be hybrid in 2023. In Asia-Pacific and Latin America the figures are a bit higher, at 47% and 41%, respectively.

Greater Meeting Spend

Global meeting spend is expected to increase by 3.1%, the same as Amex GBT’s survey last year. In addition to this, cost per attendee is expected to increase, as well, 1.5% for small meetings and 3% for conferences and tradeshows.

Sixty-five percent of North American respondents expect their meeting spend to increase, compared to 68% in 2022; 12% of those expect a spend increase of 11% or more. In Europe, 66% of respondents expect meeting spend to increase, a 2% increase from 2022; and just like North America, 12% of those expect a spend increase of 11% or more.

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Ninety percent of meetings in North America are expected to have an in-person component in 2023—62% of which will be in-person only—a 2% increase compared to 2022. Latin America is expected to see the same percentage of events with an in-person component, although its rate of in-person only events is slightly lower, at 62%.

Inclusion of an in-person component is expected to make up 86% of meetings in Europe—53% of which will be only in person—as compared to 81% of which had an in-person component in 2022.

Internal and small meetings are predicted to see the greatest cost per attendee in APAC. Internal meetings there are expected to cost US$711 per attendee per day, as compared to $554 per attendee per day in North America and Europe, and US$662 in Latin America; small meetings in APAC are expected to be US$565, while in Europe, the cost per attendee is expected to be US$427.

Sustainability Concentration

Seventy-one percent of North American respondents’ organizations have sustainability in mind when planning events, 70% of which reported working with a defined sustainability strategy. According to the report, the top three ways North American organizations do this is by minimizing paper use, choosing green suppliers and applying energy-saving and waste-reduction practices.

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In Europe, 78% of respondents said their organizations took sustainability into account when planning events, 66% of which have a defined sustainability strategy. Minimization of paper usage and energy-saving and waste-reduction practices are the most common practices among European respondents. Those in this region were also more likely than others to say they make post-event CO2 calculations, at 28%.

Latin America and APAC had the largest percentage of respondents who said their organizations consider sustainability when planning events, at 86%. These two regions also pointed to the minimization of paper usage and energy-saving and waste-reductions practices as their most common practices in their sustainability efforts.

DEI Developments

Globally, 87% of respondents said their organization “actively strives” to include DEI in their meetings and events. The report lays out multiple ways an organization may do this, like reaching out to multicultural groups, hiring diverse suppliers and booking venues that are accessible to all.

Of the reported regions, Latin America-based organizations reported the greatest percentage—96%—of respondents who said their organization tries to incorporate DEI into their programs. Focusing on accessibility and other forms of communication, such as sign language, subtitles and closed captioning, as the top two ways they incorporate it.

Ninety-two percent of respondents in APAC said their organizations incorporates DEI in their programs. Their top two ways of doing this are by using diverse and minority-owned suppliers and including diverse speakers and entertainment.

Eighty-two percent of respondents in Europe said their organization considers DEI when creating their program; 39% of respondents said they provide events virtually and focus on sustainability—28%—and use diverse and minority-owned suppliers—24%—as forms of inclusion. Eighty-one percent of North American respondents said their organization strives to incorporate DEI in their programs; their top two ways of doing so are by including diverse speakers and diverse or minority-owned businesses.