Event planners grapple with last-minute registrations and sky-high travel costs

Event planners need to show customers the benefits of committing early

Last-minute registrations for overseas business events continue to be a challenge for event organisers post-lockdown, and PCOs and PEOs are deploying various methods – from working on more flexible arrangements with venues to highlighting the higher costs of travel – to encourage early confirmations.

Patricia Cheong, managing director Asia, International Conference Services, shared with TTGmice how a recent medical congress saw its registration surge to 1,100 in the last three weeks before the event, up from the expected 700.

Event planners need to show customers the benefits of committing early

Cheong noted: “Over the last two years, people have held on to their conference registrations to the very last minute as it is quite risky in the sense that the event may be cancelled, or if they contract Covid. Either situation could mean they would be unable to obtain a refund.”

Moreover, companies’ internal budgets have been cut, which means that attendees may have trouble justifying their travel to their management or have to wait longer for the approval of their travel budgets.

“Speakers are also in the same situation, which then becomes a chain reaction, and makes it challenging for PCOs like us,” Cheong added.

Richard Ireland, CEO, Clarion Events Asia, observed: “Events have always experienced late registration patterns but in the post-lockdown environment, this has certainly increased.”

He attributes this to delegates who are usually senior executives, stating that these individuals “want flexibility in their schedules and tend to book late”.

To deal with last-minute sign-ups, Cheong shared that she works closely with the venue to enable more flexibility in accommodating changes in attendee numbers on shorter notice, or prepare for a hybrid option from the beginning and encourage attendees who register at the last minute to participate online instead.

Cheong added: “We have also encouraged some of our association clients to consider making the in-person registration price the same as the virtual price, which makes it less risky for the attendee if they have to switch to an online attendance.”

“Also as organisers, we need to be open and transparent about the progress of the event and publicise who is attending, speaking, exhibiting as early as possible,” Ireland pointed out, to spur customers to commit early.

He shared that Clarion implements time-based pricing to encourage earlier confirmations, as well as highlight to attendees the risk of higher airfares and accommodation costs, “given that capacity constraints continue to exist on key routes”.

“Due to rising costs of travel, we are also encouraging delegates to start looking at travelling earlier, which means earlier planning,” Cheong noted.

Although Kenny Yong, founder and group CEO of PEO Fireworks Trade Media, does not deal with many last-minute registrations, a similar major complaint his exhibitors have put forth is that “hotel rates and airfares are skyrocketing”.

Other challenges Yong is currently experiencing revolve around logistics and operations, where venue owners, freight forwarders and contractors are “rusty post-lockdown”, while also dealing with a “manpower crunch” arising from “back-to-back” events.

To encourage earlier sign-ups, Yong works with official hotels earlier in the year to ensure attendees benefit from exclusive rates.

Overall, Yong is optimistic for 2023, as his company is already seeing floorplans that are 80 per cent filled, buoyed by the surge in demand for in-person events.

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