The German National Tourist Board (GNTB), the GCB German Convention Bureau and the EVVC European Association of Event Centres present the new Meeting & EventBarometer 2022/2023 results. The key figures on the German meetings, congress and event market in 2022 confirm that in-person events have increased significantly while hybrid and digital formats have decreased. According to the research findings, the market is recovering gradually and, at the same time, undergoing a progressing structural transformation.

The number of international business trips to Germany more than doubled from 5 to 11 million in 2022 compared to the previous year. This means the business travel segment is recording growth again for the first time after two years of Covid-19-related decline, reaching around 70 per cent of the record level from the pre-crisis year 2019.

Compared to its international competition, Germany has expanded as the number one business travel destination for Europeans, with 9.2 million business trips. It leads the ranking by a clear margin over France (four million business trips) and Spain (2.9 million). Within the business travel market, the MICE segment is gaining importance post-Covid. 60 per cent of business trips from Europe to Germany in 2022 were promotable, i.e., travel related to trade fairs and MICE. With 67  per cent, this share was even higher for business trips from overseas markets. At the same time, the recovery of promotable business trips is, at 74 per cent, significantly higher than that of classic business trips.

Petra Hedorfer, chairwoman of the GNTB’s executive board: “The development of this market segment is extremely important for us, as the share of business travel in German incoming tourism from Europe is 20 per cent, i.e., almost twice the European average (11 per cent). Business travellers from overseas even reach a share of 33 per cent. In order to continue to be a part of this recovering market in the future, we need to continuously adapt to the changing market demands as they occur in the course of the ecological transformation: More than half of event organisers state in the Meeting & EventBarometer that their clients expect sustainability to be considered. Many players in German tourism have adapted to these challenges: Almost two-thirds of supplier companies have already aligned parts of their offer portfolio with sustainability in mind, and around one-fifth consider sustainability in their entire supply chain. As the most important reasons for this, the respondents cite, on the one hand, the saving of resources and, on the other hand, client expectations, which is important evidence of how ecological transformation, service quality and business success are linked.”

The development of the German event market in 2022 underlines its transformative power in the face of multiple challenges as well as the ongoing relevance of business events in the communication mix of organisations. In 2022, the real volume of in-person and hybrid events (in-person only) returned to 48.5 per cent of the 2019 level. The recovery of the market is emerging with the end of the Covid-19 measures from the beginning of the second quarter until the end of 2022. During this period, event volumes return to 66 per cent of pre-pandemic levels.

The number of in-person event attendees amounts to 172 million. Combined with in-person attendees of hybrid events, this figure is as high as 184 million. This means an increase of 246 per cent in in-person event attendance (2021: 50 million). In addition to in-person attendees, there were 28.5 million online attendees in hybrid events last year (2021: 36.3 million) and 53.4 million in online events (2021: 327 million). While the number of online attendees declined, in-person events with digital elements (hybrid events) proved to be the driving force in the event market. In 2022, a total of 2.6 million events with 266.4 million attendees took place in Germany across all event types (in-person, hybrid, digital).

Business trips are increasing significantly compared to the previous year. Due to the lifting of Covid-19 regulations, congresses, meetings and seminars have become significantly larger (in relation to the number of attendees) in 2022 compared to the previous year. There was a strong shift towards larger events with 101 or more attendees and a correspondingly strong decline in very small events (up to 50 attendees). The need for in-person meetings has increased significantly, putting the relationship to digital and hybrid events into perspective.

Meeting & EventBarometer 2022/2023 presentation, in German.

“Business events are an essential tool for solving complex issues. People who come together in a professional context ensure knowledge transfer, form networks, and thus provide the platforms for developing the answers to the big questions of our time. Particularly in an era of multiple global challenges, they can support the necessary transformation processes and provide a stage for constructive dialogue on multiple levels and in diverse formats,” says Matthias Schultze, managing director of the GCB German Convention Bureau.

The increase in business trips is also reflected in the number of international attendees. Their share in 2022 was 3.9 per cent on average (2021: 2 per cent ). This means that although international demand is developing more modestly than the domestic market, there is a clear positive trend.

The in-person attendees of hybrid events, together with the attendees of in-person events, only form a growing group of people who want to meet in person. These figures illustrate the need for a dual focus on face-to-face encounters and digital networking, which is confirmed in particular by the organisers surveyed with a view to market development in the coming years.

Particularly with regard to sustainability, the sensible use of digital tools is indispensable. In the current survey, the importance of sustainability is generally rated higher than in the last survey. Around one-fifth of the supplier, companies have already organised their supply chain sustainably throughout. The vast majority of suppliers surveyed are able to address various aspects of sustainability, while less than 10 per cent of respondents are not actively engaging with the topic. For event organisers, sustainable event management is important in the upper range, with an average rating of 7.1. Differentiated according to different aspects of sustainability at events, catering is just ahead of CO₂ compensation and a certification system. Overall, sustainability increasingly influences corporate decisions and, thus, the entire event planning process.

Based on the turnover from 2022, the outlook for 2023 and 2024 is very positive. All suppliers (that is, all event venues) expect a positive turnover development of around 20 per cent plus for the next two years. Event organisers confirm this positive outlook: 81 per cent expect a good booking situation in the coming months and anticipate budget growth of around 20 per cent by 2023/2024. These optimistic forecasts prove that the staging of events is again in strong demand despite wide-ranging challenges.

Energy supply, inflation and price increases, as well as staff shortages, are the biggest challenges for the coming years. Among the most frequently mentioned consequences of the various challenges for suppliers are changes in how buildings are managed and greater price pressure from clients. Rising costs and budget cuts are among the most challenging consequences for organisers.

In addition, the demand for staff and skilled workers has increased compared to the previous year. The need for staff is most noticeable in conference hotels. Almost 70 per cent of them state that they are looking for staff, which has an impact on the workload of existing employees. In order to counteract this situation, the focus is on diversity in teams as well as on the stronger promotion of women. Implementing flexible working time models is another step. “Addressing issues around diversity and equality are important approaches to solving the need for skilled staff and contribute to improving companies‘ competitiveness,” says Ilona Jarabek, president of the EVVC European Association of Event Centres.

The results of the Meeting & Event Barometer 2022/2023 show that the appeal of events is unbroken. In-person event attendance, which makes up the largest share of all attendees across all types of events, underlines the high relevance of in-person events as a communication tool for companies and organisations. Nevertheless, digital formats continue to be of great importance and will continue to play an important role in the communication mix in the future. Beyond the physical space, digitalisation creates enormous opportunities to expand the reach of events and include those who cannot or do not want to be present in person for various reasons.

Overall, the German meetings and congress market are resilient and fit for the future in the face of multiple challenges. In the future, business events will be characterised above all by short-term planning cycles, a greater influence of sustainability aspects, and increased staff requirements. At the same time, these conditions create a considerable opportunity to drive new innovative solutions that are sustainable and future-proof.