The German National Tourist Board (GNTB), the European Association of Event Centres (EVVC) and the German Convention Bureau (GCB) have released the results of their Meeting- & EventBarometer 2021/2022. The key figures for the meetings, congresses and event market in Germany during 2021 confirm that hybrid/virtual formats and sustainable event planning are here to stay.
The research suggests that organisers believe hybrid events are emerging as a future-proof driver for business events. Meanwhile, in person attendees are expected to come back at a high level over the coming years.
Trends for incoming business travel
After the slump in the first year of the pandemic, the total number of business travellers from Europe to Germany has decreased by 12% in 2021, according to analyses by IPK International, a global travel data company.
Germany continued to lead the ranking of European business travel destinations. There were 29.7m business trips made by Europeans in 2021, 4.4m of which were to Germany. France followed in second and third place with 2.4m and Italy with 2.3m.
The segment of promotable business travel, which covers travel related to MICE, contributed 2.1m trips to the German incoming business travel market. The volume of business travel from the US stabilised in the second year of the pandemic at 300,000 business trips, of which 71% were MICE trips.
According to studies by IPK International, 23% of respondents worldwide are planning business trips abroad. In Asia (38%) and America (33%), the intent to go on business trips is stronger than in Europe (14%).
Petra Hedorfer, CEO of the German National Tourist Board, said: “On the one hand, the market players have positioned themselves for the future demands of the market with innovative products… At the same time, the impact of events can be extended by linking up in the digital space without increasing the CO2 footprint through constantly more travel, which is a valuable contribution to more sustainable business travel.
“On the other hand, we clearly see a pent-up demand and in the markets that were more affected by pandemic travel restrictions, travel intentions are increasing disproportionately. This confirms how important on-site attendance is in the mix of online, in-person and hybrid events,” added Hedorfer.
The German events market
In the German events market, the number of in-person attendees increased by 10.3% compared to the previous year (2020). Of the 68.4m people who attended a business event on-site in 2021, 50m attended an in-person only event (2020: 60m), and 18.4m (2020: 1.8m) attended a hybrid event.
In 2021, a total of 4.2m events (2020: 2.3m) with 432m attendees (2020: 232.5m) took place in Germany across the three formats; online, hybrid and in-person.
Work-related travel is on the rise again compared to 2020, albeit with continued capacity adjustments and limited international travel. These restrictions are also reflected in the numbers of international attendees with an average share of 2% in 2021.
Digitalisation meets sustainability
Virtual formats have brought about structural change in the events market while creating a higher awareness for the importance of sustainable business events. Sustainability plays an important role for 79% of the organisers surveyed and significantly influences their decision-making.
Particular weight is given to how people travel to events. In 2021, hybrid events achieved a growth of 280% with 360,000 events organised.
Matthias Schultze, managing director of GCB, stated: “The different ways of attending events reflect an overarching trend: the future of business events is not one-dimensional but will play out in different scenarios. While some want the maximum flexibility provided by taking part in events remotely, others prefer to meet people in person in authentic surroundings. In future, these changing customer requirements will have to be considered with even more attention and corresponding offers will have to be developed.”
Staffing needs a challenge on the road to recovery
Cancellations and postponements due to governmental Covid-19 restrictions continued to impact turnover in 2021: suppliers report around 62% less turnover than in 2019, but an increase of 0.7% compared to 2020.
Event centres, conference hotels and event venues expect constant growth in the next few years, which in some cases would even exceed the pre-crisis level. The biggest challenge highlighted in the research will be acquiring staff. A large number of businesses are looking for new employees across all qualification levels but are currently having difficulties covering the demand.
Ilona Jarabek, president of the EVVC, commented: “In order to be able to meet future demand in the same high quality and to attract the staff our industry needs, we have to develop new working hour models, promote young talent and provide relevant training. This is all the more true as a comprehensive range of services is one of the top deciding factors when choosing a venue.”
To learn more about the study, please click here.