. Week 5 Survey: Planners Report More Flexibility as They Continue to Cancel and Reschedule Events | Northstar Meetings Group

Week 5 Survey: Planners Report More Flexibility as They Continue to Cancel and Reschedule Events

More than 71 percent of the 370 respondents called their experiences easy or neutral as they grapple with cancelling or changing their contracts.

Now in its fifth consecutive week, Northstar Meetings Group's weekly pulse survey for the first time indicates only slight changes week-to-week in how meeting planners are responding to the COVID-19 crisis, and its impact on their meetings and events, indicating the ramifications of the pandemic are becoming more widely understood and have been readily incorporated into their current and near-term workflow. Clearly, the crisis has been and will continue to be highly disruptive, but planners are reporting flexibility on the part of all parties involved when cancelling, postponing and rescheduling their events.

The key takeaways this week are:

  • No major changes were seen in the distribution of cancellations, postponements and virtual event alternatives. This week there's a slight shift to cancellations from postponements, as more meetings have been cancelled outright, with an increased interest in virtual meetings as an alternative to a live event.
  • As more planners have cancelled and/or are cancelling their events, fewer planners are experiencing difficulties doing so as the crisis persists.
  • A similar favorable shift can be seen as planners postpone/reschedule their events. Last week, 64 percent of the respondents reported their experience was easy to neutral, while more than 71 percent reported their experience rescheduling/postponing as easy to neutral this week.
  • Like last week, well over 75 percent of all planners reported their rescheduling has not impacted their contract terms, across all key considerations (attrition, space, costs and concessions).
  • As time passes, more planners have rescheduled or intend to reschedule their postponed meetings to later in the year. Last week, 53 percent of respondents reported rescheduling their events to September, Q4 '20 and Q1 2021. This week, more than 57 percent reported doing so.

These verbatim comments show what some of the respondents are experiencing these days.

  • "As for working with hotels, all but one were easy and compromises were met on both sides," said one planner.
  • Another said finding dates was easy, but renegotiating was hard: "Our hotels don't want to reduce liability for reschedules. We have scheduling conflicts with attendees and we anticipate a drop in attendance. There is also the fear factor of people not wanting to travel, or firms restricting business travel."
  • One planner already had an event in place for next year, so rescheduling wasn't an option: "It took extreme circumstances for the hotel to agree to allow us to cancel without penalty."
  • "Our biggest challenge is determining when we are comfortable hosting events in the future," said another planner.
  • The contract held firm for another planner. "We had to cancel outright with force majeure being enacted and accepted with no liability," they said.
  • And every experience is different. "It's been dependent on the property. Trying to postpone our May event, one hotel would require us to pay all the losses they would incur. We will keep trying to reason with them. On the other hand, for an event scheduled for July, our hotel is happy to work with us for a win-win," said another planner.
  • Going online continues to be an option: "We're not looking to postpone or reschedule. We're doing a condensed virtual format over the same dates that the live event was to happen."

 

As the industry continues to shift with developments related to the crisis, so too will our Pulse Survey. We will be posting a new survey with new questions shortly. Thank you to all of the hundreds of planners who continue to participate in the Pulse Survey. Your participation provides guidance to industry professionals as we seek to work our way through our current challenges.

Please download this week's results, and comparisons to last week's results, here.


PREVIOUS RESULTS: Our Week 4, March 24, 2020, Survey

Click here to download the results [PDF] of this week's survey, and to see how it compares to our previous surveys. Go here to take our Week 5 survey.

Coronavirus and Meetings
Head here to see Northstar Meetings Group's comprehensive and continuing coverage of how coronavirus is affecting meetings.

Now that the world is hunkered down, trying to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus, and gatherings everywhere are coming to a halt, NMG's weekly pulse survey turned to the experiences event planners are having as they handle all the details of cancelling and rescheduling. Answering the survey were 535 meeting professionals; the findings below reflect responses from Tuesday afternoon, March 17 at 3 p.m. ET, to Tuesday morning, March 24 at 10 a.m. ET.

The key findings of this week’s pulse survey are as follows:

• Cancelled meetings prevail. Nearly two-thirds of respondents have already made that decision for some events.

• Thirty percent of those surveyed said they are planning to produce a meeting virtually — demonstrating solid traction for the online option, not to replace physical events but to provide some means of connecting groups during this period of disruption.

• More than 45 percent of those who have postponed their meetings have already rescheduled them, leaving more than 50 percent still working to reschedule their postponed events. Should the stimulus bill boost confidence and physical distancing restrictions loosen, planners might become more actively engaged in rescheduling, and soon.

• Six in 10 planners said the process of cancelling their events was easier than they expected; conversely, in these challenging times nearly 30 percent said cancelling was more difficult, and that they had expected more flexibility given the circumstances.

• Among planners who have postponed and rescheduled, or are seeking to, the largest segment of respondents (more than 37 percent) reported the process as being easy or relatively easy. More than a quarter (27 percent) said they are continuing to work through challenges with no determination of outcome.

• Fewer than 2 in 10 planners are reporting rescheduling to be relatively difficult or very difficult, while nearly 10 percent reported that they haven't tried to reschedule yet.

• Across the board, prior agreements are being readily honored -- attrition, space, cost and concessions all appear to be rolling over from prior contracts to the rescheduled dates.

• For attrition terms, conditions are skewing more favorable, but for a minority of planners: 12 percent are getting more favorable attrition terms, while just over 10 percent report less favorable attrition terms

• For space, costs and concessions, though the majority of planners reported they are getting similar terms, conditions are skewing less favorably for a minority of planners. Given supply-and-demand factors, these difficulties could widen as more planners seek to reschedule within the same time frame.

• Some planners said they are rescheduling meetings as early as May (7 percent), while the majority (54 percent) said they have moved events to September (19 percent), Q4 2020 (19 percent) or Q1 2021 or later (15 percent).
 
These verbatim comments illustrate planners' current experiences:
 
"Some (hoteliers) have been exceptionally understanding and others exceptionally challenging. I have had hotels proactively reach out to invoke force majeure, while others who should be understanding are being unreasonable, myopic and obtuse," said one planner.

Another wrote in: "Each cancellation/postponement is different. It was difficult at first with hotels pushing back, but as news gets worse, hotels are being more flexible."

"We have cancelled with plans to reschedule at a later date, but are not yet choosing dates. Too much uncertainty," said another.  

Independent properties have been most helpful, according to one respondent: "We have had to cancel, postpone and try to reschedule multiple events with varying challenges. Boutique properties are the winners here! The challenges are with the big brands."

Another spoke of the burgeoning online trend for groups: "We did not postpone but actually flipped to a virtual conference in six days."

This afternoon we will reset the Pulse Survey, to see how these numbers change over the next week, and to learn more about the process of cancelling, postponing and rescheduling your events. As with previous surveys, the polling will close on Tuesday morning, March 31 at 10 a.m. ET, and will be posted here later that day.

Click here to download the results [PDF] of this week's survey, and to see how it compares to our previous surveys. 


PREVIOUS RESULTS: Our Week 3, March 17, 2020, Survey

In the past several days, as confirmed cases and deaths related to the coronavirus have continued to rise in the U.S. and worldwide, the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, countries and states have advised against or banned meetings, events and social gatherings. It comes as no surprise, then, that the results of NMG’s coronavirus Pulse Survey, now in its third week, reveal a pronounced shift in meeting planners’ actions and attitudes since the previous week. This week’s results reflect responses since the survey was reopened Tuesday afternoon, March 10 at 3 p.m. ET, and closed to responses Tuesday morning, March 17 at 10 a.m. ET.

• Among all planners, there has been a marked shift in thinking, as more are acting to alter their plans for upcoming events. Far fewer planners are now "undecided." Well over two-thirds of respondents this week have either cancelled, moved or rescheduled their events, regardless of location.

• U.S. meetings have seen the biggest week-over-week shift. While slightly more than one-third of meeting planners "cancelled, moved or rescheduled" last week, more than 75 percent of respondents had done so by this morning.

• "Cancelled" meetings outnumber "rescheduled" and "moved" events across all regions, with a major shift toward cancelling events in the United States this week. Nearly 50 percent of respondents report cancelling their events across the U.S., Europe and Asia.

• A greater percentage of Asia meetings have now been cancelled (over 50%), relative to other regions.

• More planners are adding options for virtual participation; nearly 50 percent reported they are doing so, compared with 36 percent last week.

• Lastly and not surprisingly, more planners now believe "we should cancel or delay all meetings for the next few months." More than 50 percent expressed that sentiment today, vs. only 15 percent advocating for broader cancellations last week.

As circumstances have changed, so too will our Pulse Survey. Today, NMG posted a new survey, seeking to learn more about the process of cancelling, postponing and rescheduling your events, to get a greater understanding of your interests, opportunities and constraints. Like previous surveys, it will close on Tuesday morning at 10 a.m. ET, March 24, and will be posted here later that day.

Click here to download the results [PDF] of this week's survey, and to see how it compares to our previous surveys.


PREVIOUS RESULTS: Our Week 2, March 10, 2020, Survey

A week has passed since we first took the pulse of our community concerning the coronavirus outbreak, and the landscape has changed dramatically as meeting planners are re-evaluating positions they held just a few days ago.

Planners are staying calm (so far). Though events are being canceled and rescheduled, many are still not considering canceling or remain undecided compared to last week. This is what the data indicates for U.S. and European planners, while a higher degree of confidence is now being shown for meetings in Asia, indicating Asia might already be starting to normalize.

Looking further down the line, only 15 percent of our sample believes meetings should be canceled for the next few months, up from 9 percent last week, indicating continued resiliency on the part of event organizers. However, while 54 percent of respondents stated last week that they would continue to hold meetings in areas that are not significantly affected, this week only 40 percent demonstrated the same degree of commitment. Forty percent are still gathering information, so facts and shared resources remain vitally important.

Nearly 500 people weighed in this week, indicating a strong interest in understanding and collaborating with other planners to manage their events in light of the current health crisis.

We'll check in with you again next week as this story continues to develop. 

Click here to download the following results in PowerPoint format.


 

PREVIOUS RESULTS: Our Week 1, March 3, 2020, Survey

(Click here to download a PDF of the below charts.)

 

If you have meetings planned in the following locations, did you cancel, move or reschedule events? (Select all that apply.)

UNITED STATES

• Not considering canceling: 117 (29%)
• Undecided: 173 (43%)
• Rescheduled: 32 (8%)
• Canceled: 70 (18%)

EUROPE

• Not considering canceling: 26 (7%)
• Undecided: 56 (14%)
• Rescheduled: 19 (5%)
• Canceled: 40 (10%)

ASIA

• Rescheduled: 12 (3%)
• Canceled: 32 (8%)
• Not considering canceling: 6 (2%)
• Undecided: 14 (4%) 


If you are going forward with planned meetings, are you implementing any of the following? (Select all that apply.)

• Issuing a statement regarding health measures: 240 (60%)
• Providing additional hand-sanitizing stations: 166 (42%)
• Advising against handshaking: 170 (43%)


Which best reflects your opinion about going forward with meetings

• We should continue to hold meetings in areas that are not significantly affected: 218 (54%)
• I believe we should cancel or delay all meetings for the next few months: 35 (9%)
• I'm not sure; still gathering information: 147 (37%)