Venue Sourcing Market Trends to Know

I’m Victoria DeLuise, the Director of Venue Sourcing, globally at FIRST.  With 20 years of experience in both planning and sourcing, I’m always closely monitoring market trends to advise our clients on their outlook.

The right venue is crucial to an event’s success and creating an immersive and engaging experience that leaves a memorable impression on attendees and clients. After years of virtual connection, we’ve seen a resurgence of live and in-person events. With this comes a sharp rise in demand for event spaces and the hotel and hospitality industry, one of the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, with recent geopolitical and economic events occurring, such as supply chain issues, hiring freezes, and the possibility of a recession in some markets, the state of venues and event spaces continues to change dramatically.

empty event venue

With travel being halted and stay-at-home orders being enforced at the height of the pandemic, the demand for hotels was at an all-time low. With precautions and restrictions lifted in recent months, more people are looking to travel and connect in person. The good news is the hotel industry is expected to rebound to pre-pandemic levels both in occupancy and ADR (Average Daily Rate) by 2024, with 2023 projected to be the highest-grossing year.  This results in longer lead times required for venue sourcing and creates a backlog within the industry. Due to this steep rise in demand, there is the potential that our client’s first choice of venue will not be available when they want. In addition to corporate demand, we are also seeing an increase in leisure travel and a spike in rates, creating even more competition for those seeking venues for events and experiences.  When possible, we suggest allowing as much lead time as possible- currently, we are sourcing and contracting as far out as 2026, which has been helpful in obtaining preferential choice on venues.

las vegas hotel

The impact of politics has also become a major factor in the destinations that are considered and selected for groups narrowing the venue sourcing pool. The effect on the hospitality industry in boycotted destinations is staggering and could mean losses of billions of dollars.  While morally, many of us do not want to send events to locations that do not align with our values, studies have shown that boycotts on destinations do not have the desired effect and typically do not drive change.  While some companies have chosen to boycott, others have decided to host their events and drive change within those destinations by volunteering with or donating to the opposition.

venue source

Additionally, staffing shortages are also posing issues to the events industry, particularly when it comes to the production and execution of an event. Event spaces, specifically hotels, are finding it difficult to find staffing due to layoffs, lingering COVID-19 concerns, childcare, political issues, and more. Recently, FIRST has produced several events where venues were short-staffed, and our teams stepped in to compensate. It’s important that teams stay flexible and adaptable, ensuring that they are readily available to partner with venues and take on unconventional tasks. Strong contracts and transparent pre-event communications are also crucial to the success of each program.

venue staff

Inflation, the possibility of a recession, supply chain issues, and increased costs of living and energy prices, are also posing issues to venue sourcing. The trend we are seeing is that prices are high, with service levels still being lower than in 2019. There is less room to negotiate, with fewer compensations and concessions being offered by venue management. In terms of budgeting, clients and teams will have to account for this increased cost and decreased service. Inflation in September 2022 rose to 8.2%, which was more than predicted, especially given recent actions from the Federal Reserve to hike interest rates.

In-plant marketing team

While the return to live events is exciting to see, it’s important to remember that venue sourcing looks much different than pre-pandemic norms. New challenges must be met with innovative solutions and adaptable teams who are ready and eager to meet unconventional obstacles they could potentially face when venue sourcing. Staying informed in this evolving landscape will be crucial in ensuring that you are able to find the perfect venue for whatever your event or experience may be.

Get in touch to learn more about how FIRST can help you deliver industry-leading creative and engaging live, virtual, and hybrid brand experiences.