Group Meeting Trends - 2015 and 2016

By Chaunsea Keller Executive Vice President, EproDirect | September 20, 2015

Wow! What a year 2015 has been for groups and conventions! For the first time since the down economy in 2009, I feel confident in saying that travel and group business is not only back, but it is better than ever! We have seen reports that some of the 2015 have had 20-25% growth in attendance over 2013 & 2014 attendance. Group business represents over 30% of all travel numbers now, which means it represents over 500 Billion Dollars (and small meetings - less than 50 group rooms per night - allocates over 2/3 of this number). With 2015 almost behind us and 2016 lurking around the corner, there have been some new trends in the group and convention market segments. These are not new concepts necessarily; however they are being creatively reintroduced into the group markets.

New Travel Locations for Groups and Meetings!

As you may have heard, Cuba is becoming a hot destination for American travelers. It is not open yet in the sense that you can just jump on board and fly there, however with the correct tour company, you are able to take your group there! At the end of 2014 and going into effect in January 2015, The United States and Cuba made the exciting announcement that there had been a revival of diplomatic relations between the two countries. As a result of the meeting, the travel restrictions to Cuba were still implemented, however, less severe. Certain travel restrictions still apply, however travel there is now allowed for many reasons, and one being professional meetings. There are a few bonded companies that can take your group to Cuba. The two that are known throughout the meetings industry and that are licensed are Cuba Explorations ( and Global Incentive Management (

We are also hearing groups are going to some non-traditional (by meetings standards) locations to embark on adventures. In addition to Cuba, we have heard companies have taken their groups/meetings to The Ice Hotel in Sweden, swimming with the turtles in The Galápagos Islands, African Safari adventures, experiencing a cultural phenomenon in Malaysia, exploring the jungles in Colombia and what was told to me as "The Next Big Thing....Croatia".

Next time you are looking for a new destination for your meeting/group, do some research and ask around because planners are really breaking away from what is the "norm" in relation to locations. For the "traditional" locations, there is still plenty of business out there! We are also hearing that groups are doing pre and post-con wrap ups in the more traditional locations (ie: Miami for Cuba, Stockholm for the Ice Hotel, and Vancouver for Whistler). I recommend pairing up with a traditional/non-traditional location for marketing purposes, so that you can represent your destination as both to the planners.

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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.