The Rise of Generation C and Small Meetings

A New Buyer Persona

By Charles de Gaspe Beaubien President & CEO, Groupize Solutions | September 11, 2016

According to Google Research, Generation C is a powerful new force in consumer culture. It's a category of people who care deeply about creation, curation, connection, and community. It's not an age group; it's an attitude and mindset. Brands that take the time to understand Generation C and better engage with them will find a willing and influential audience.

For this new group of consumers, the internet no longer sits behind a screen – it’s a way of life - engaging with technology whenever they want. Gen C wants access to goods and services from all their devices in the fewest possible clicks. Archaic hotel mindsets will ensure some properties will never even be considered by today’s buyer.

In the past several years, there has been a distinct shift toward smaller meetings - yet this is one area in which technology has not kept up with the times or the expectations of the buyers.

According to Skift’s “Megatrends of 2015, ” the events and conferences industry is going through a “creative renaissance” with the “the rise of new technologies affecting every stage of the event planning process.” While Skift references South by Southwest ( SXSW ) and TED/TEDx—massive conferences seemingly intent upon reshaping the landscape—why are we not giving the same attention to small meetings?

As an aggregate, small groups and meetings represent a significant market opportunity. In the US alone, two-thirds of all meetings have 50 participants or fewer representing a $124 billion industry. This breakdown of the market by number of attendees illustrates a striking realignment that has occurred in the corporate meetings landscape. Day meetings alone are a $10B industry, with one meeting easily generating $5-6K for a hotel. Many of the largest meetings have become medium size; medium-size meetings have moved toward smaller; and, in many cases, small meetings are now staying on-site or going 'virtual'. It is this small meeting segment that presents the biggest opportunity for the hotels and the greatest challenges to the planners.

The traditional booking and management processes for smaller groups and meetings is hampered by numerous manual steps. Small, simple meetings where options have become commoditized are more appropriate for automation than are larger groups with needs beyond a meeting room, break-out room, simple catering and limited audio-visual requirements. A common challenge in small meetings is the cost and complexity involved in managing the reservation process. With these groups, significant time savings can be achieved by the planner but out of date hotel processes do not facilitate the savings of time or money.

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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.