Hotel Group Meetings: Blue Skies Ahead

After a decade of sacrifice and struggle, it seems that hotels and meeting planners have every reason to be optimistic about the group meeting business going forward. By every industry benchmark and measure, 2017 is shaping up to be a record year, which means more meetings in more locations for more attendees. And though no one in the industry is complaining about this rosy outlook, the strong demand is increasing competition among meeting planners across the board – for the most desirable locations, for the best hotels, for the most creative experiences, for the most talented chefs, and for the best technology available. Because of this robust demand, hotels are in the driver’s seat and they are flexing their collective muscles. Even though over 100, 000 new rooms were added last year, hotel rates are expected to rise by a minimum of 4.0%, and they are also charging fees on amenities that were often gratis in the past. In addition, hotels are offering shorter lead times on booking commitments, forcing planners to sign contracts earlier than in past years. Planners are having to work more quickly and to commit farther in advance to secure key properties. Planners are also having to meet increased attendee expectations. They no longer are content with a trade show and a few dinners; they want an experience. Planners need to find ways to create a meaningful experience to ensure that attendees walk away with an impactful memory. This kind of experiential learning can generate a deeper emotional connection, which can ultimately result in increased brand recognition, client retention, and incremental sales. The September Hotel Business Review will examine issues relevant to group business and will report on what some hotels are doing to promote this sector of their operations.

Library Archives

 
Ivan Tamayo

Since first coined in the early 1980s, the boutique hotel is one with quite the noteworthy story. Though a story of evolution, its true claim to fame is how its model has changed the industry. A look at today’s hotel landscape showcases the undeniable influence boutique hotels, generally 100 rooms or less and almost always independently owned and many times self-managed, have had on the industry. Whether in design, location, in-room amenity options, or the locally supported one-off venues that make every ‘must see’ destination guide, the distinctive characteristics that define these hidden gems have gone mainstream. READ MORE

Jason Lewis-Purcell

A lot is said about maximizing hotel revenue per available room, but what of revenue per available square meter? It’s a broadened mindset that may be needed from any hotel that aspires to attract the world’s several million business travelers to their property but doesn’t quite know where to begin. Indeed, as Hotel Analyst’s Katherine Doggrell recently observed: “MICE has been a thorn in the side of the sector since windowless rooms with biscuits were invented. Any hotel worth its salt has to have them, but selling them is ... hardly an efficient process. Dead space in which many go to die.” READ MORE

Greg Hopton-Jones

Industry metrics have 2017 poised to be another banner year in the meetings business. The trend looks to only continue into the foreseeable future presenting new challenges and opportunities to meet, and hopefully exceed, the expectations of the client, planner, and hotel alike in this dynamic environment in which we find ourselves. The influx of meetings has increased over the last few years considerably along with the expectation to create a memorable ‘experience’ has meeting planners and hotels donning the ‘creative hat’ more frequently to provide a unique event that resonates long after the meeting has concluded. READ MORE

Bob McIntosh

We see so much written these days on the similarities and differences in the lifestyles of Millennials, Gen X, Gen Y and Baby Boomers. How are Hoteliers navigating through these differences and similarities so the investment in bringing so many people together for a meeting is realized by the host? While some may think the answers are very obvious, there certainly are opportunities for individual hotels and brands to make their mark and make claim to more market share. At the end of the day, market share defines how effective our brand message, marketing dollars and direct sales efforts are serving our owners and associates who depend on those results for their livelihood. READ MORE

Jay Spurr

Meeting planners have more than enough to think about when it comes to searching for the perfect venue – and eco-consciousness is increasingly making its way top of mind for many. It is currently estimated that the average hotel guest generates 2.2 pounds of waste each night of their stay. And, with the meetings and event industry recently being deemed as the second most wasteful sector in the United States by the EPA, we at JW Marriott Austin knew we had to go above and beyond to deliver more efficient meetings and events with the lowest possible carbon footprint. READ MORE

Del Robinette

Engagement and commitment are at the core of our professional lives in a 24 hour a day, 7 day a week operation. No matter the size or complexity of the box, engagement and our commitments should be a core fundamental that not only surfaces in our every interaction, but guides and directs our proactive decision making and our strategies and executions. Hospitality 101 teaches us as hospitality professionals, to engage with our guests, to make eye contact at 10 feet, to speak within 5, to escort when possible and to use our guests name in conversation. READ MORE

Katie  Davis

I had a bit of an “out of body” experience recently. I was attending a corporate meeting, which was held in a hotel meeting room. As usual, I was multi-tasking for most of the meeting. Doing my best to remain engaged with the meeting content, while simultaneously managing an ever-growing email inbox and “To Do” list. During a break, I was pacing outside the meeting room, on the phone with my office, when I noticed some snacks and beverages set-up adjacent to the meeting room entrance. READ MORE

Deirdre Martin Yack

Meeting planning in today’s world is more complex than ever. Whether you’re a planner or a supplier, our jobs are now 24/7. We are dealing with shorter lead times than ever, tighter budgets (on both sides), and expectations based on the perfection projected by social media and reality TV. Our job is no longer simply about dates, space, rate – we now need to compete at a world-class level on a daily basis. As a supplier, it takes extreme creativity at the venue level. Starting with the initial design, event space must be as flexible, innovative and as Instagram-worthy as possible. READ MORE

Jim Vandevender

As demand for hotel rooms drives increasing ADRs and climbing occupancy rates, hotel sales teams and revenue managers are honing sales strategies, evaluating deployment and group segment potential, and strategically choosing the right mix of room inventory allotted to their transient and group segments. Pursuing the best segments and selling smartly is the name of the game in an economic environment in which many hotels can afford to be particular about the business they book. For many years, it has been easier to analyze market performance for the transient segment than the group segment because of the availability of data to paint a clear picture of what is driving a market’s actualized activity. However, it is now becoming just as clear for the group side due to recent advances in technology. READ MORE

Kevin   Fliess

Seasonality is a blessing and curse for hospitality professionals who want to plan ahead. Cvent’s customer success team receives calls, emails, and tweets every day from hoteliers looking to take the reins of the data they’ve already collected to fill need periods. Whether they want to maintain repeat group business or expand to new markets, so many of our partners value the importance of using predictable, recurring behaviors to make strong sales and marketing strategies that last. READ MORE

Jill Farley

Hotel sales managers and meeting planners have been working together for decades. We have had our ups and downs with everything and anything that could go right and wrong. That said, at the day we are here for our clients and guests. With that common ground established; now how do we achieve our common goal? For me, I am 100% transparent with my meeting planners, groups, and guests. I teach my team to not be in it for the next best group that comes along. We want to create strong partnerships with our colleagues for the long haul. READ MORE

Dana Orlando

Group business is a wonderful driver of market share in all tiers of our industry. The ability to understand the details of luxury touchpoints can be an important competitive advantage. I hope to share a few stories and examples of how applying the disciplined approach to crafting luxury touchpoints can create tremendous energy, increase group market share and achieve authentic guest engagement. READ MORE

Michael Pisterzi

The modern bridge that connects hoteliers and meeting planners becomes more overburdened and scrutinized by the day. Through trial and error, mountains of feedback from users, and various platform improvements the electronic request for proposal has become the undeniable standard in sourcing for the meeting planning industry. However, as most of us know, the process is still far from perfect. READ MORE

Sam Smith

Planning a trade show or conference is no easy feat, but planning a successful conference is far more difficult. The weeks and months leading up to the event can demand a lot of long hours and stress and any event planner will quickly become intimately familiar with Murphy’s Law. With this in mind, there are a lot of tools available that will make planning these events far less stressful. On top of that, there are apps, software, and digital tools that can actually make the event itself go much more smoothly. READ MORE

Andy Langston

Guest Wi-Fi is a powerful way for hotels to create a personalized, memorable experience for group meetings. This article provides tips for hotel on how they can use guest Wi-Fi to engage meetings guests, build brand recognition, and to leverage Wi-Fi as an effective marketing tool to sell to business customers who will be clamoring to secure your meetings space for their next event. READ MORE

Ralph Salisbury

After providing ‘creature comforts’, conveniences, and an impressive selection of nutritious foods in order to increase their competitive edge in the event and group meeting business, hotels and event planners now find themselves even more challenged to stay competitive. These ‘creature comforts’ are important in order to be in the competition, but today are not enough to gain a competitive edge; these do help to make attendees comfortable, but comfort has become expected, it is now a standard that is only noticed if it is missing. The competitive edge sought by hoteliers is gained through increased brand recognition which requires lasting or “impactful memory”. READ MORE

Coming up in January 2018...

Mobile Technology: Relentless Innovation

Technology has become a crucial component in attracting and retaining hotel guests, and the need to enhance a guest’s technology experience is driving a relentless pace of innovation. To meet and exceed guest expectations, 54% of hotels will spend more on technology in 2018, and mobile solutions in particular will top the list of capital investments. Many hotels are integrating mobile booking, mobile keys, mobile payments and mobile check-in into their operations. Other hotels are emphasizing the in-room experience, boosting bandwidth and upgrading flat screen TVs to more easily interface with guest mobile devices. And though not yet mainstream, there are many exciting technology developments on the near horizon. The Internet of Things (loT) is taking form in some places, and can be found in guest room control systems, voice activation systems, and in wearable sensors that can be used for access and payment options. Virtual reality headsets are available at some hotels so guests can enjoy virtual trips to exotic locations or if off-property, preview conference facilities and guest rooms. How long will it be before a hotel employs a fleet of robots for room service, or utilizes a hologram as a concierge, or installs gesture-controlled walls that feature interactive digital displays? Some hotels are already using augmented reality for translation services, or interactive wall maps, or even virtual décor. This pace of innovation is challenging property owners and brands to stay on top of the latest technology trends while still addressing current projects. The January Hotel Business Review will explore what some hotels are doing to maximize their opportunities in the mobile technology space.