ConventionSouth’s semiannual survey offers a peek inside the relationship between planners and CVBs
“It’s a relationship profession.” That’s how one planner describes the meetings and events industry in ConventionSouth’s Winter 2022 CVB & Planner Relationships Survey. Our semiannual survey, fielded online during two weeks in January, asked meeting planners and CVBs to anonymously share their perspectives on their evolving relationship.
This is our fourth survey to include questions on the continuing impacts of the pandemic, a subject that first appeared in our October 2020 study. Coupled with our historical data, the results of this survey allow us to track changing attitudes and glean valuable insights.
Much of the data echo earlier findings, demonstrating surprising stability in this anything-but-certain climate. And in a glimmer of
hope, these latest results show signs of progress in the recovery of the beleaguered industry.
With COVID-19 cases declining and many areas lifting pandemic restrictions, there is cautious optimism. But the virus remains top of mind. Still, 87 percent of respondents think or are hopeful that virtual events can help sustain the industry until in-person events fully come back. And more than 71 percent of planners who responded say they have no plans to change careers, an increase of 3 percent over October 2021.
Rebookings are rebounding, with 65 percent of planners noting they have rescheduled postponed in-person 2020 and 2021 events for this year or next.
More than 70 percent of planners say they have resumed hosting in-person events, most starting in the third quarter of 2021. That is a marked improvement over October 2020, when responses showed 89 percent of planners were not planning any live events.
But uncertainty remains. For those who have not returned to hosting in-person events, 35 percent—the highest percentage—say they do not plan to do so until the second quarter of this year.
Live events will look a bit different, with 56 percent of planners saying they are planning events for fewer attendees than normal. That’s an improvement from October 2021, when 64 percent said the same.
As to whether the relationship between CVBs and planners has changed due to the pandemic, 46 percent of CVB respondents say yes. Planners are visiting destinations less and using third-party services more, say some. “Planners are working around CVBs more than ever. Even planners you have a relationship with are not working through you,” one CVB response says.
Still, reliance on CVBs remains strong, with 74 percent of planners saying they use CVBs when planning most or some live events—up 4 percent from last March. And planners give CVBs high marks for sharing RFPs with appropriate venues, suggesting hotels in line with their budgets, and accurately promoting their destination’s ability to handle meetings.
When it comes to repeat bookings, relationships are becoming more important. Relationships with staff was the No. 1 reason planners say they book events at the same location, with cost a close second. The ranking of those reasons was flipped in both our March and October 2021 surveys.
The majority of CVBs report they had to implement cost-cutting measures. The most common cost-cutting measure reported for both 2020 and 2021 is reducing advertising spending. But this year’s survey shows a sharp increase in the number of CVBs reporting staff layoffs: 29 percent, up from 19 percent last March.
That figure meshes with some of the negative comments planners had about CVBs. “Most have been missing in action; they have had too much turnover of personnel,” says one planner.
However, most planners express empathy with CVBs for the challenges they face. “I think CVBs have had to adjust the same way planners have,” writes one planner. Another agrees, “They’ve been hard hit, as well.”
The online debate
Nearly all planners (90 percent) say they think virtual or hybrid events will continue post-pandemic, down 5 percent from October 2021. And 53 percent of planners say they will incorporate online elements into in-person events this year, a significant reduction from 68 percent in our October 2020 survey.
Planners express mixed feelings about online events. Many laud online’s convenience, flexibility, cost and time savings, increased participation, inclusivity, and environmental benefits.
“We now have a comfort level, tools, and resources to fully embrace virtual and hybrid meetings,” says one planner.
Indeed, 62 percent of planners now say they have the skills or resources to produce a virtual event in-house.
Still, all agree technology will not supplant human interaction. As one planner says, “No amount of technology can replace a handshake.” n