Many meetings since March have been canceled, postponed or moved to virtual platforms because of the Covid-19 pandemic, but about $2 billion worth of meeting requests for proposals during the second quarter of 2020 were sourced through meetings management company Cvent’s network, Cvent senior director of analytics Jeffrey Emenecker said during the recent Cvent Connect virtual conference.
May marked the bottom for meetings RFP volume, with it flattening out over the past six weeks or so, he said. The company also started to see a shift in June to smaller meetings for summer 2020 arrival dates. Conversions dropped “quite a bit” in late March and early April when uncertainty around Covid peaked. They began to trend back up to the point where, in the weeks leading up to the late August conference, they were close to normal, if not even, with historic data.
“A lot of meetings have been pushed to next year,” Cvent’s chief marketing officer Patrick Smith told BTN. “RFP trends show sourcing going on for 2021. There’s not a lot of certainty in where we will be in January, but there’s definitely sourcing, especially the back half [of 2021] and into 2022.” He also added that since March, 70,000 virtual events have used Cvent.
The average number of hotels included in RFPs is down about 25 percent from the first quarter, just before the pandemic hit, Emenecker added, but there’s also been a drop in the number of hotels responding to those RFPs. “That means for the average RFP, the number of hotels competing is 25 percent lower than normal, so your chances of winning leads are higher than normal,” he said.
In the U.S., midsize metro areas performed better on a relative basis than major metropolitan areas, and that has been consistent since March, he said. Globally, July RFP volume was 96 percent of June’s volume, with Asia leading with 197 percent of June’s volume. July RFP volume in the European Union and United Kingdom were at 115 percent of June’s volume, the Middle East and Africa was at 112 percent, while the Americas (84 percent) and Australia (74 percent) lagged behind.
Cvent’s data also noted a shift in chain scales for events. Based on RFPs sourced from the end of July for four weeks into August for summer 2020 events, those for luxury properties were down 8.9 percent compared with what Cvent considers a typical share. Upper-upscale RFPs were down 6 percent from Cvent’s typical share, and those for independents were down 4 percent. Those for economy through upscale segments, which tend to have fewer meeting and event spaces compared with luxury and upper-upscale properties, were up 18.8 percent.
Room rates for meetings have trended down as well, and for the month of August 2020 declined about 11 percent year over year. Based on arrival dates, room rates for meetings held June through August were 31 percent lower than those tracked during 2019, and those booked for September to December 2020 were down 23 percent year over year. Room rates for meetings booked for the first quarter of 2021 are down 10 percent year over year, and for full-year 2021 are lower by 3 percent, and for full-year 2022 rates are down 4 percent year over year.
Emenecker noted that room rates for meetings have decreased across all chain scales, though less so in luxury and upper-upscale properties; sourcing has shifted to less-costly chain scales; and there continues to be a shift toward lower-cost markets.
In addition, meeting size is trending smaller, according to the Cvent data. For meetings sourced after July 1 to be held in July or August 2020, 49 percent were for 10 or fewer attendees, as are 38 percent of those to be held in September 2020. An additional 42 percent of those September meetings are for 11 to 50 attendees. Further, almost 40 percent of the RFPs awarded the first week of August were for August meetings.
By type of meeting, for summer 2020, 42 percent were for space only, 22 percent were for rooms only, and 36 percent were for rooms and space. Those respective percentages for meetings from September 2020 and beyond were 17 percent, 23 percent and 60 percent.
Year-to-date business transient RFP volume though August was down 65 percent year over year, but the RFP season is running late this year, Emenecker said. So far, Asia is faring the best in terms of relative transient RFP volume, followed by Europe, then the U.S., he added.