Bringing Life Back to Group Meetings

By Sandy Heydt Director of Sales & Marketing, The Logan, Philadelphia's Hotel | September 25, 2016

Like many other industries, 2016 is a big year for reflection on past and current trends among the meetings and conventions sector, ultimately yielding numerous progressive changes among the way meetings are planned, held and eventually evaluated by meeting hosts and attendees.

Meeting hosts are expecting higher attendance and engagement rates, a more efficient use of technology and creative ways to position the meeting as an interactive experience verses a traditional presentation-style event that ultimately maintains a cost-effective price point. To satisfy growing client expectations, meeting planners are expecting more from meeting, convention and event venues – a central location, affordable group rate and a size-appropriate space are no longer the sole determining factors when choosing a host location.

Hotels as a whole have seemingly been able to keep up with the growing planner and client demands in 2016. Group demand in itself is strong and group rates are trending up. However, we are always seeking additional ways to meet, if not exceed, the ever-changing expectations of group meeting planners and their clients to stand out among other host venues and provide planners with a reason to come back for more.

We've identified several essential trends and factors that have been shaping the group meeting industry and driving the decision-making process among meeting planners over the past year. Among these trends include premier food and beverage options, a greater need to remain digitally connected throughout the event, along with innovative ways for attendees to do so, and an increased focus on in-house offerings for team building activities.

1. Upscale Food & Beverage Options

Not surprisingly, food and beverage costs are among one of the highest budget items when hosting group meetings. Less surprisingly, food & beverage choices are becoming an increasingly influential factor when choosing a host venue. Meeting planners have come to expect first-class culinary options from the host venue, as F&B pairings can be a key factor in providing an energy source for attendees, boosting attendee morale and facilitating the overall networking experience. In turn, meeting attendees have increasingly come to expect planners to choose premier catering options, especially ones that are reflective of current food trends in the market, such as gluten-free dishes made from organic or locally sourced ingredients.

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Eco-Friendly Practices: Corporate Social Responsibility

The hotel industry has undertaken a long-term effort to build more responsible and socially conscious businesses. What began with small efforts to reduce waste - such as paperless checkouts and refillable soap dispensers - has evolved into an international movement toward implementing sustainable development practices. In addition to establishing themselves as good corporate citizens, adopting eco-friendly practices is sound business for hotels. According to a recent report from Deloitte, 95% of business travelers believe the hotel industry should be undertaking “green” initiatives, and Millennials are twice as likely to support brands with strong management of environmental and social issues. Given these conclusions, hotels are continuing to innovate in the areas of environmental sustainability. For example, one leading hotel chain has designed special elevators that collect kinetic energy from the moving lift and in the process, they have reduced their energy consumption by 50%  over conventional elevators. Also, they installed an advanced air conditioning system which employs a magnetic mechanical system that makes them more energy efficient. Other hotels are installing Intelligent Building Systems which monitor and control temperatures in rooms, common areas and swimming pools, as well as ventilation and cold water systems. Some hotels are installing Electric Vehicle charging stations, planting rooftop gardens, implementing stringent recycling programs, and insisting on the use of biodegradable materials. Another trend is the creation of Green Teams within a hotel's operation that are tasked to implement earth-friendly practices and manage budgets for green projects. Some hotels have even gone so far as to curtail or eliminate room service, believing that keeping the kitchen open 24/7 isn't terribly sustainable. The May issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to integrate sustainable practices into their operations and how they are benefiting from them.