Conference Centers: A Renewed Perspective

By Mark Cooper Chief Executive Officer, International Association of Conference Centers | September 14, 2014

Gathering places for people to meet and hold events have been around since mankind began and there have been many fascinating meeting venues which have been built over the centuries where historically significant decisions have been made to shape the world we live in today!

Back in 1981, a group of hoteliers recognized the need to provide a serious concentration on the productive meeting environment and founded the International Association of Conference Centres. In the years since the term "conference centre" was coined, and for IACC, it represents a total commitment to the concept.

The last few years were very tough on the global meetings industry. But today, there is a renewed interest in an exceptional meeting experience provided by dedicated conference centre professionals.

In the past two years, IACC has grown its global membership to almost 400 member properties in 20 countries around the world and established new chapters in Europe and in Australia-Asia Pacific; all because of its unwavering commitment to the exceptional meeting experience. New members are literally all over the map: Kenya; England; US, Canada, Sweden, Australia, Japan and Denmark to name just a few where conference centers are thriving!

In early 2013, as the effects of the global economic recession seemed to be in recovery mode, IACC partnered with DCI (Development Counsellors International) to survey meeting planners of various generations - from Baby Boomers to Gen Xers to Millennials.

The survey reveals that the meetings industry was "in a state of flux" with matures (those aged 66 and older) retiring and Millennials entering the workplace. It is projected that employment in the North American meetings market will grow by a massive 44 percent through 2020. This rapid growth will usher in a new era of new expectations and demands for conference centers seeking to win a meetings planner's business.

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Sales & Marketing: Selling Experiences

There are innumerable strategies that Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors employ to find, engage and entice guests to their property, and those strategies are constantly evolving. A breakthrough technology, pioneering platform, or even a simple algorithm update can cause new trends to emerge and upend the best laid plans. Sales and marketing departments must remain agile so they can adapt to the ever changing digital landscape. As an example, the popularity of virtual reality is on the rise, as 360 interactive technologies become more mainstream. Chatbots and artificial intelligence are also poised to become the next big things, as they take guest personalization to a whole new level. But one sales and marketing trend that is currently resulting in major benefits for hotels is experiential marketing - the effort to deliver an experience to potential guests. Mainly this is accomplished through the creative use of video and images, and by utilizing what has become known as User Generated Content. By sharing actual personal content (videos and pictures) from satisfied guests who have experienced the delights of a property, prospective guests can more easily imagine themselves having the same experience. Similarly, Hotel Generated Content is equally important. Hotels are more than beds and effective video presentations can tell a compelling story - a story about what makes the hotel appealing and unique. A video walk-through of rooms is essential, as are video tours in different areas of a hotel. The goal is to highlight what makes the property exceptional, but also to show real people having real fun - an experience that prospective guests can have too. The June Hotel Business Review will report on some of these issues and strategies, and examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating them into their operations.