Meeting and conferences are key revenue drivers for so much of the hotel industry. Here’s a look at the current state of the meetings market and what it now takes to drive bookings success in this segment.
1. Lightening speed
Free, FAST, and it better be reliable -- highly effective WiFi is the #1 issue for planning professionals and conferees in the meetings business today. Conferees often come with up to 3 wireless devises per attendee so greater bandwidth is a necessity to drive multiple devices. Planners are expecting adequate bandwidth to keep meeting guests not only connected and engaged, but happy as well.
2. Content leads to discovery
How do planners and conferees discover and learn about properties in 2014 - primarily through good old fashioned Google searches. Targeted exposure on the Internet has never been more important, or more utilized by planners. What drives this? Meaningful web content.
Be visible and connected, but never forget that well executed, timely, and informative website content is king when trying to communicate a message, delineate one's brand and engage meeting professionals.
3. Demand trends up
Meeting demand & booking pace is consistently on the upswing. As the economy picks up momentum, so goes meeting demand. Short term bookings are still prevalent, but the booking demand window is increasingly stretching into 2015, 2016 and beyond. Not quite the good old days....but getting closer!
4. Creating the experience
Just as with consumer travel today, the demand for out-of-the-ordinary unique experiences is increasingly factoring into meeting destination decisions. Those properties partnering with local assets, such as wineries, historic & natural wonders, intriguing adventure resources, and unique off-site reception & dinner venues have a strategic advantage in the pursuit and the capturing of meeting demand.
5. Green is good, but....
Though it sounds enticing, and feels like the right thing, being green is not seen by most planning professionals today as a critical factor in property selection, and no one is losing business because of the lack of it. This isn't to say properties aren't doing their upmost to be good green citizens; it's just that other issues are often paramount to the success of a meeting.
6. Select social media has a place in meetings
Social media has minimal impact on securing corporate meetings business, with the possible exception of LinkedIn. During meetings, however, planners and conferees use Twitter and LinkedIn for communicating with each other, and also with moderators.
On the horizon; the rise of meeting-specific property apps tailored to optimize communication during the planning & implementation phases -- and these may soon supersede the role of social media. Facebook is rarely utilized to bring in meetings business or communicate during a conference, as it's seen to be a personal communications tool for staying in touch with friends & family.
7. Meeting ROI
Meetings & budgets are finally increasing following over six years of recession. This is especially true in the Association market, with larger meetings growing in attendance. As corporate purse strings slowly loosen, meeting professionals are increasingly becoming more firm with demands of flexibility, including the negotiation of attrition clauses. The demand for value in their investment has never been higher. It all ties back to more accountability for meeting ROI.
8. Health consciousness
Food & beverage in 2014 is all about health & variety -- for refreshment breaks and meal menus. Planners and conferees want healthy choices verses pre-ordained menu options, and they want value. Creative Spa breaks may substitute for refreshment breaks at those properties that offer this service. A 10-minute 'lift your spirits' yoga session can be an energizer as well. Planners and attendees want breaks that perk them up; not the opposite.
9. Team building climbs back
Groups that have the budget are looking for unique ways to motivate, inspire, and build camaraderie as the business environment continues to improve. Socially conscious groups or those with a more streamlined budget tend to look for other camaraderie-building opportunities, such as developing fellowship through teambuilding volunteerism initiatives, like building bikes for kids in the local community.
10. Who's meeting in 2014?
The traditional industry segments are once again delivering business to meeting properties, including the Financial, Pharmaceutical, Insurance, Association, and increasingly Healthcare industries. Silicon Valley and the High Tech Northwestern U.S. are on the rebound too, significantly benefiting properties in this market.
Source:Benchmark Resorts & Hotels, a division of Benchmark Hospitality International, complied the trends above based on observations by its properties. Benchmark Hospitality International is a leading U.S.-based hospitality management company, which operates 40 hotels, resorts, and conference centers coast to coast and off shore. Many are certified by the International Association of Conference Centers, the leading professional organization governing the multi-billion dollar conference center industry on five continents.