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 (www.cubaexplorations.com) and Global Incentive Management (www.gimdmc.com).

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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Mobile Technology: The Future is Now

Mobile Technology continues to advance at a relentless pace and the hotel industry continues to adapt. Hotel guests have shown a strong preference for mobile self-service - from checking-in/out at a hotel kiosk, to ordering room service, making dinner reservations, booking spa treatments, and managing laundry/dry cleaning services. And they also enjoy the convenience of paying for these services with smart phone mobile payments. In addition, some hotels have adopted a “concierge in your pocket” concept. Through a proprietary hotel app, guests can access useful information such as local entertainment venues, tourist attractions, event calendars, and medical facilities and services. In-room entertainment continues to be a key factor, as guests insist on the capacity to plug in their own mobile devices to customize their entertainment choices. Mobile technology also allows for greater marketing opportunities. For example, many hotels have adopted the use of “push notifications” - sending promotions, discounts and special event messages to guests based on their property location, purchase history, profiles, etc. Near field communication (NFC) technology is also being utilized to support applications such as opening room doors, earning loyalty points, renting a bike, accessing a rental car, and more. Finally, some hotels have adopted more futuristic technology. Robots are in use that have the ability to move between floors to deliver room service requests for all kinds of items - food, beverages, towels, toothbrushes, chargers and snacks. And infrared scanners are being used by housekeeping staff that can detect body heat within a room, alerting staff that the room is occupied and they should come back at a later time. The January Hotel Business Review will report on what some hotels are doing to maximize their opportunities in this exciting mobile technology space.