In this time of global crisis and uncertainty, we put the call out to leaders, CEOs, strategists and consultants to sit down and tell us, in their own words, what is going on and what is going to happen next in this vital global industry.

The meetings industry hasn't just been hammered by the realities of restricted travel and gathering — it has had to reinvent itself, not just to serve its own business interests but to serve the rest of us and our need to communicate, connect, share and do business.

McKinsey & Company pegged international business travel spending at $1.4 trillion, more than 20% of the global travel and hospitality sector. Bill Gates said he thinks 50% of business travel is going away forever, not just meetings, but business travel too. PhocusWire said it'll take five years to get back to where we were.

It’s not just COVID-19 that has made this impact. Travel bans, time out with families and friends, global teams, talent attraction and retention, and climate change are just a few of the factors that stack up with COVID-19 to point to an inevitable change in how we travel, meet and do business.

"50% of our services became irrelevant overnight. Services such as hotel sourcing, air travel and the project management of AV equipment were no longer needed. Prior to the pandemic, 40% of our focus was on virtual meetings and 60% was on live meetings. We had to stop, train, and reassess the entire staff while pivoting to virtual meetings only." 

— Andy McNeill, CEO, American Meetings, Inc. (AMI)

Andy McNeill, the CEO of American Meetings, Inc., is our guest on this edition of the Future of Tourism. He's here to talk about the wholesale changes that AMI had to make in the crisis and what he thinks the world's meetings industry will look like when we have this pandemic in the rearview mirror.

McNeill tackles the hard questions head-on: how are we going to create virtual destination awareness, how can we create engaging and inspiring events even though they are half a world away, and what are the tools we need to create those experiences?

On the horizon: artificial Intelligence, virtual speakers who appear to be there in person and make eye contact with every viewer, immersive virtual reality that is simultaneous for physical and virtual attendees, and ‘soft’ innovations we use at meetings like virtual business speed dating. 

“More technology is going to come at us in the next 10 years than came out in the last 50,” said McNeil.

The big question — are you Ready Player One? 

And if you didn’t get that reference, then you really do need to listen to this episode …

Photo by Estera Nicoi on Unsplash