Market Compression and Rising Costs Push Mtgs. Bookings to Secondary Cities


Meetings bookings continue to ride a wave of demand in 2024,
with meeting organizers challenged by rising rates and continuous competition
for space—especially in top markets. The result, according to meetings industry
analyst Knowland, is a growing shift to secondary cities.

January data showed meetings business booked in cities
outside the firm’s traditional top 25 markets growing at a considerably faster pace
than in the top-tier group, even while the latter continues to post strong

Lexington, Ky. led secondary markets with 76.4 percent
growth in its year-over-year January meetings volume, led by a concentration of
education industry groups. Syracuse, NY. followed with 34.6 percent growth
thanks to a strong showing of social and sports-oriented groups. State
associations helped power Richmond, Va.’s 33.4 percent boost in January
meetings volume, while Oklahoma City saw a large concentration of technology
companies underneath its 29.1 percent increase in meetings volume. National
associations drove a 24.1 percent increase in Louisville, Ky.

Larger markets remained strong in January, led by hotspot Nashville,
which gained 16.1 percent over January 2023 meetings volume, led by technology
companies, healthcare, associations, manufacturing and pharmaceutical business.
Detroit grew 10.4 percent, boosted by education, banking, manufacturing and
association groups. New Orleans realized a 7.8 percent year-over-year increase,
with an influx of association, technology, healthcare, education and nonprofit
groups, while San Francisco drew pharmaceutical, banking, tech, associations
and healthcare groups for a 7.3 percent boost in January. Association,
technology, manufacturing, healthcare and nonprofit groups helped drive a 5.3
percent meetings volume increase in Tampa last month.

Northstar Meetings Group’s January Pulse Survey showed major concerns over the elevated cost environment, not only citing accommodation rates, where suppliers project they will maintain pricing power in 2024, but also in terms of food and beverage costs and audiovisual costs. Meeting organizers also cited slow or even lack of response to request for proposals as a major challenge in the high-demand environment, which could be another factor pushing business to secondary markets, where the ease of doing business could be more attractive.

Knowland’s business mix analysis was notable for the presence
of technology companies posting a strong showing on the meetings map in
January. Technology and banking sectors had been a notable holdout in terms of
business and meetings travel recovery, but major hoteliers in recent months
have noted an uptick in recent months even for industries that were slower to reach
pace for travel and meetings bookings.

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