Small Meetings = Big Opportunity

By Michael Boult President & CEO, StarCite, Inc. | October 28, 2008

A recent report on the groups and meetings industry published by PhoCusWright, "Groups and Meetings: Market Opportunity Redefined," estimates the current size of the meetings industry in the U.S. at $164.1 billion and projects it to grow to $175 billion by 2008. PhoCusWright estimates that nearly one quarter of all online travel in the U.S. will be groups and meetings related by 2008.

What the hotel community should recognize is that a key factor in this growth is the anticipated increase in small meetings. While the total market for corporate meetings will be relatively flat, PhoCusWright reports that corporate meetings with fewer than 25 attendees are projected to grow a 13% in 2007. Obviously, this shows that to grow your business in this market you have to focus on increasing your market share and attracting more small meetings.

There's an overall perception in the industry that the large hassles of small meetings don't match the potential pay-off. It is difficult for individual hotels to stand out. There is no way to really influence the customer unless you get him or her on the phone. Hotels that realize the potential and the opportunity, struggle with just how to reach these consumers - who exactly within a company do you target? Without a set group of buyers, occasional small meeting planners are a moving target.

On the hotel side you also have missed opportunity. Your hotel in a particular city may not be as well known as some of your competitors, so you don't get the first call. Smaller meetings tend to have shorter lead times and planners need a response right away. You lose business if you get a call or fax for meeting request from a different time zone, and no one is available to respond. Many times, small meeting requests get forwarded to another department such as catering, causing further delays. The bottom line is that you need a way to manage these requests and ensure that they are routed to the right sales person or decision-maker so they can be analyzed and responded to as fast as possible.

The PhoCusWright report confirms what we know already at StarCite working with our corporate clients who have implemented strategic meetings management programs. According to our own research at StarCite, and studies conducted by others in the industry, it is estimated that 70 percent of corporate meetings include 50 people or less. These small meetings represent a potentially massive opportunity for hotels to win more corporate business and increase their market share. Unfortunately, the potential of small meetings is still largely untapped by hotel marketing organizations.

Using on demand meeting solutions, corporations have realized significant savings through process efficiencies and leveraging their data to negotiate preferred supplier agreements. In addition to streamlining the RFP process, online solutions have made it easy for planners to quickly search and compare a diverse array of suppliers.

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