DMOs vs. COVID-19: Latest Insights + Tips for Meetings Marketing Efforts

Digital Edge has been keeping a pulse on the latest responses from meeting planners as they pertain to the meetings & conventions industry and its direct effects on CVBs/DMOs during and after the pandemic. We’ve gathered the top insights from MPI, PCMA, and Northstar surveys to provide you with statistics and tactics to prepare your meetings marketing efforts.

According to the MPI survey, 15.5% of planners say they anticipate meeting/event business to pick up by the end of August, while 26.8% (the majority) say they anticipate meeting/event business to pick up by the end of September and 18% say some time in 2021.

Meeting planners are also anticipating a full recovery to happen in the new year:

  • 21.29% in Q1 of 2021
  • 21.83% in Q2 of 2021
  • 16% in Q3 of 2021

“42% of planners said they are 42.41% more likely to book a destination that acted rapidly to the crisis more than those that acted slowly.”

Digital Edge Tip: With these timelines in mind, it’s important to get your recovery strategy off the ground. The survey also measured that “42% of planners said they are 42.41% more likely to book a destination that acted rapidly to the crisis more than those that acted slowly.” Meeting planners are looking for information and resources to help them make decisions NOW so that they are well prepared to plan for the upcoming months. Don’t know where to start when it comes to recovery? We can help!

Planners are still going to utilize the DMO as a destination and marketing resource. The survey outlined that 115 out of 120 planners surveyed said they are extremely likely to continue to utilize the CVBs/DMOs with many of them remaining active and vigilant. 

  • 29.7% of planners are currently marketing
  • 16% will resume marketing in June 2020

Digital Edge Tip: Ensure you’re speaking to meeting planners the right way. Learn how to pivot your DMO meetings messaging to planners on our blog. 

Those that may be slow to re-enter the marketing world are looking at two major time frames. 

  • 20.83% June 2020
  • 20.37% Between October and December 2020

These planners have stated that the most important issues are (from most important to least):

  1. Venues’ sanitation protocols
  2. Hand sanitizing stations
  3. Destination crisis plan
  4. Access to health care in destination

Digital Edge Tip: It’s important to ensure your DMO is communicating to planners all actions taken by hotels, the convention center, attractions, airport, and your own destination. Get ahead of the curve with our tips on proper communication.

MPI also asked planners what DMOs can do to better position themselves. Hands down, the majority stated, “keep communicating information.” Planners are actively participating in the content being produced. They are looking to DMOs to provide them with information/resources on the following:

  • How many meetings were rebooked
  • Letting them know it’s safe 
  • Letting them know meetings that are happening
  • Keeping the sales team employed
  • Economic impact stories
  • Hygiene efforts
  • Hidden gems and areas of interest

They also want to know what actions your DMO is taking to provide: 

  • Emergency preparedness plan 
  • What’s being done for safety, security, sanitation, and communication
  • Accurate numbers on the impact of the virus
  • Increase in sanitation across F&B, housekeeping, public spaces, meeting rooms, etc.
  • What has changed since the pandemic
  • Why they should consider the destination 
  • How they can rebuild together
  • Available resources
  • Positive reinforcement

PCMA’s survey shared that 51% of planners are redesigning their face-to-face events for a digital platform in the next 3 months. While 28% of people will be hesitant to travel and meet face-to-face, that doesn’t mean it’s coming to a halt. 32% of respondents are willing to travel any distance necessary if the program is worth it. 

And while long-distance travel and flights might be slow to pick up, 30% of planners say they believe smaller, local and regional events will thrive before national and international groups gather.

Digital Edge Tip: Re-evaluate and re-identify your geographic regions by examining sales reports. It’s important to market to locations that are more likely to do business in the near future as opposed to casting a wide net.

With this downtime, planners are looking for ways to expand their skill set, thus many are reading, researching and participating in continuing education. In fact, 84% of planners are looking to pursue/develop their skills in designing digital event experiences and 78% are developing sales and marketing approaches best suited to a post-COVID-19 market.

Digital Edge Tip: DMO’s need to prepare a solid recovery plan with marketing tactics to re-engage when the time is right. Meeting planners are going to become more tech-savvy and digitally focused and will be looking for ways the destinations are adapting to meet these needs. Adding digitally focused marketing initiatives in your strategy to reach these planners will be key.

Northstar shares some good news amongst meeting planners, in that 58% still expect to host meetings/events in this calendar year. These planners are active and eager, taking the “look, not book” approach. Research and planning are key during these slow periods so that planners are prepared to ramp up when they start booking meetings during the popular timelines of June, September (Northstar’s survey estimates 44.2% of planners moved events to September to year-end 2020) and Q1 2021. 

Luckily, it’s not only the planners who are showing the fervor. Attendees are ready to meet—and soon. 

  • 94% are “very much” or “somewhat” missing live events
  • 90% are likely to return to large trade shows and conferences when they resume

The best thing DMOs can do is, again, communicate and communicate properly, as 51% of planners reported increased difficulty in reaching out to suppliers and DMOs. 

Digital Edge Tip: It will be imperative to ensure your group sales team is transitioned in understanding the facets of sales, marketing, and convention services to provide a higher level of service to planners. We’ve put some tips together on how to effectively communicate and transition group sales post COVID-19.

While the other surveys report on timelines and geographic regions that will pick up, interestingly, Northstar’s survey touches on the type of venues to recover more quickly than others. The survey shows golf resorts gaining favorability, with suburban and boutique hotels being the “best option.” Unfortunately, cruise ships and gaming facilities fall further out of favor for future meetings at this time. 

As industry veterans, we have a tactical focus on assisting DMOs in their marketing initiatives. If you need support with your meetings and conventions recovery plan to get meetings marketing ramped back up, reach out. We’re here for you.

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