How Today's Hotels Are Satisfying Corporate "Experience Seekers"

By Karyl Leigh Barnes Executive Vice President & Partner, Development Counsellors International | September 11, 2016

Meetings are out. Experiences are in.

That’s the message that emerges from research Development Counsellors International ( DCI ) conducted earlier this year, in partnership with the International Association of Conference Centers ( IACC ), to determine what will be required in the meeting rooms of the future. In a detailed survey of more than 150 meeting planners from five continents —including those specializing in corporate, association, and government meetings — 75 percent of respondents said their job is increasingly about “experience creation.”

Before mobile phones and Wi-Fi, meeting participants had no choice but to sit down and engage with what was being presented. Today meeting planners wage a nonstop battle for attention against all the content, entertainment and social media on the internet. To make it even more challenging, smart phone technology makes distractions easily accessible – in the palm of your hand. Today’s meeting planners must deliver an “experience” to conference delegates — and they are turning to hotels to help them achieve this goal.

These experiences run the gamut from inspirational meeting environments, to creative team building activities, to breaks that go beyond coffee and cookies to merge refreshment with networking. If participants are not posting to Instagram at a conference in your hotel, then you are failing to deliver the kind of experience they have come to expect. And you are also missing an invaluable publicity opportunity in the process.

As in so many other aspects of travel and tourism, it’s millennials who are driving the changes in the meetings industry. Born between the early 1980s and around 2000, millennials ( also known as Generation Y ) value meetings as a source of networking and career opportunities. The Center for Exhibition Industry Research found that 61 percent of millennials believe meetings are more important today than they were two years ago. It’s worth noting that within 10 years this group will make up 70 percent of the workforce.

To attract this demographic, meeting venues such as hotels will need to provide more than cutting-edge technology, which for millenials is a given.

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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.