Changes in the Group Market
By Elaine Macy Vice President of Group Sales, Preferred Hotel Group | August 31, 2014
The economic downturn of 2009 caused dramatic changes in the hotel group sales market, primarily in the automotive, financial services, insurance, and pharmaceutical industries. The number of incentive trips and meetings were drastically reduced and even cancelled across all industries. Five years later, meeting planners are faced with a new wave of opportunities and challenges and now have to re-think and understand how the "groups game" has changed to maximize their success.
The great news is… incentives are back! This market segment has returned in robust form, showing a trend towards longer booking windows and lead times. For the first time since 2009, companies are starting to increase their budgets for incentives in many markets. Based on the IRF surveys, 33% of planners are increasing their budgets each year. Incentives programs often have added meeting components for tax purposes.
Companies are taking their incentives to more exotic locations across Asia and Latin America. They are increasing their budgets and shortening their booking windows. The qualifiers are younger and, therefore, want more activities and unique experiences for their programs. They are playing less golf and enjoying more spa experiences. They enjoy trekking, and off-road activities, as well as new and exciting water sports such as stand-up paddle boarding.
Also, family incentives are becoming increasingly popular as many employees who spend too much time away from their families want to use the incentive trip to reconnect with loved ones.
Emerging destinations such as Costa Rica and Argentina are becoming more popular because they offer a greater return on investment, more memorable activities, and unique authentic experiences. Conversely, humanitarian activities, which were very popular over the past few years, have become less interesting to the decision makers. Now, activities that make a lasting personal impression on attendees' hearts and minds are in more demand. A personal experience in an exotic destination is a great motivator!