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Zoom fatigue revives travel for face-to-face company meetings

By Debbie Matthams, Head of Events, TakeTwo and Eton Travel

Meetings are back on company agendas. Meetings spend is expected to rise by 3.1% in 2023, with 87% of meetings having a face-to-face element and 67% of meeting buyers and planners predicting that in-person meetings will return to pre-pandemic levels within 1-2 years.

Of course, this doesn’t mean the Zoom revolution is over, but there’s plenty of evidence that face-to-face meetings are on the rise. This year, only a third (32%) of internal meetings will take place on-site; 40% will take place away from the office, with 45% of meetings including overnight stays, giving a big boost to business travel.

Meeting trends in 2023 According to a recent survey of UK and U.S. event planners, over half (53.5%) have seen business performance improve since resuming face-to-face meetings. 99% now value face-to-face more than they did pre-pandemic.

Although remote working and hybrid models have elevated internal meetings as a business priority, these trends have also highlighted the benefits of meeting in-person. From building relationships to collaboration and productivity improvement. Virtual is ideal for project-driven tasks but can limit interaction, especially in large groups that no longer have the opportunity to network.

At TakeTwo we have seen this trend first-hand and across all business sectors. Nothing beats demonstrating a new product or technology in person, because doing so creates opportunities for live interaction and to receive feedback in real-time.

Other trends we are seeing include senior executives and junior colleagues taking part in meetings instead of meeting separately. Incentives are becoming popular again as companies try to get their numbers up. Sales kick-offs are big too.

Intuitive technology and event apps are being implemented because they ensure engagement before during and post-event. Apps are great for increasing engagement, voting, and pushing content to delegates.

Event-related data and post-event analysis of that data is enabling organisers to compare registrations against attendance and to measure delegate engagement and session popularity. As a result, delegates are seeing a better return on their time and business objectives.

What’s around the corner? The market is improving but there’s still a way to go. Some TakeTwo and Eton clients will only consider short haul or domestic UK travel for events, although those events could be for up to 10,000 delegates depending on the industry and purpose.

We are seeing a lot of interest in eco-friendly events, with clients looking to minimise emissions through offsetting, or achieving net-zero. This is contributing to the trend towards short haul and regional events.

In the U.S., the trend is for groups staying regionally. If most employees are based on the east coast, the meeting venue will be on the east coast too. It's a different picture with long-haul, which is mainly down to airfares being so high at the moment.

Looking ahead, growing awareness of the environmental impact of meetings is being complemented with a greater corporate focus on diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I). I expect to be helping my clients to incorporate DE&I in their meetings and event programmes by using diverse and minority-owned suppliers.

We are still getting requests for a Covid clause in venue contracts which some already have, but some venues are reluctant, or less than transparent when it comes to signing Covid clauses. Many contracts come with basic force majeure clauses instead of specifying pandemic or epidemic. We always ask for them to be included, especially as the pandemic is now being dubbed a Tridemic - Covid, flu and RSV.

However, the question I get asked most frequently is about rising costs due to inflation. Meetings managers are predicting that group hotel rates will rise by at least 4.8% in 2023, food and beverage up 15%, with a further 5.2% increase in group air rates. Fortunately, this hasn’t stopped the contracts from being signed though!

The events division at TakeTwo and Eton Travel will guide you through the myriad of meeting options. We will help you work out whether virtual, face-to-face or a hybrid event will deliver on your event objectives. We’ll help you find the right venue for your event, and we’ll be with you right up to post-event analysis. We’re waiting for your call.


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