It hasn’t taken long after the rollout of Covid-19 vaccines for industry experts to start using the word “compression” when referring to negotiations for future in-person meetings. With travel restrictions eased, travel demand picking up and planners signing contracts for future events, finding available space soon could become a difficult and costly endeavor.
“People are starting to become really concerned about compression,” Strategic Event Procurement founder Therese Jardin said last month during a roundtable session she moderated for an Event Leadership Institute online conference. “The events that didn’t get canceled for 2022 are still on the books, and then all of the 2020 and 2021 rebooks are getting pushed forward. It’s going to be super-important to get negotiations and space-hunting done now, or you may find yourself not able to get what you need when you need it.”
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ITA Group event solutions director Erica White agreed that compression soon will be in full swing. “It’s going to be happening in 2022,” she said. “It’s busy, and it’s not just group, it’s because of the individual traveler. Demand is just so high. Rates are through the roof, and places are busy. [Venues] don’t have to be as flexible to get those groups in.”
Some believe compression will happen even sooner. The first and second quarters of 2022 “absolutely are tight, and we are beginning to see that come to bear also in late quarter three, early quarter four [of 2021],” said VP of the Americas for American Express Meetings & Events Linda McNairy. “It’s starting to show signs, because the acceleration of demand is causing both the rebooking of meetings that were put on the shelf during the Covid period as well as [the] meetings canceled completely. But now people are returning to meetings, and the intersection of all that is driving this compression.”
McNairy added that even though some larger meetings are happening, meetings taking place generally are smaller because of the space requirements of Covid-related precautions and increased social distancing. “The ability to use space in a tricky fashion and flip a room for this or that is more difficult in this timeframe,” she said.
While planners continue to source fewer meetings for the summer and early fall compared with pre-pandemic levels, “it’s a lot better environment for meeting in August, September, October than three months ago,” said Cvent senior director of analytics Jeffrey Emenecker. “Planners are getting more comfortable having meetings late summer and into fall. It will be for smaller meetings, 100 people or less, but they are saying we can meet this year, we don’t have to wait until next year.”
Data and Rates
Cvent also has seen an increase in sourcing activity for the first quarter of 2021, more than would be typical during this timeframe, Emenecker added, based on data he collected in mid-June. “It’s hard for us to tease out how much is meeting space intensive, … but [the sourcing] is about 3 to 4 percentage points higher than is typical. There is more demand going forward for that period. That is an indicator.”