How Today's Hotels Are Satisfying Corporate

By Karyl Leigh Barnes Executive Vice President & Partner, Development Counsellors International | September 11, 2016

Meetings are out. Experiences are in. That's the message that emerges from research Development Counsellors International (DCI) conducted earlier this year, in partnership with the International Association of Conference Centers (IACC), to determine what will be required in the meeting rooms of the future. In a detailed survey of more than 150 meeting planners from five continents -including those specializing in corporate, association, and government meetings - 75 percent of respondents said their job is increasingly about "experience creation."

Before mobile phones and Wi-Fi, meeting participants had no choice but to sit down and engage with what was being presented. Today meeting planners wage a nonstop battle for attention against all the content, entertainment and social media on the internet. To make it even more challenging, smart phone technology makes distractions easily accessible – in the palm of your hand. Today's meeting planners must deliver an "experience" to conference delegates - and they are turning to hotels to help them achieve this goal.

These experiences run the gamut from inspirational meeting environments, to creative team building activities, to breaks that go beyond coffee and cookies to merge refreshment with networking. If participants are not posting to Instagram at a conference in your hotel, then you are failing to deliver the kind of experience they have come to expect. And you are also missing an invaluable publicity opportunity in the process.

As in so many other aspects of travel and tourism, it's millennials who are driving the changes in the meetings industry. Born between the early 1980s and around 2000, millennials (also known as Generation Y) value meetings as a source of networking and career opportunities. The Center for Exhibition Industry Research found that 61 percent of millennials believe meetings are more important today than they were two years ago. It's worth noting that within 10 years this group will make up 70 percent of the workforce.

To attract this demographic, meeting venues such as hotels will need to provide more than cutting-edge technology, which for millenials is a given.

Of the many planners surveyed and other industry experts report that the traditional lecture model is gone, even in education-focused meetings and conferences. Jeu Bressers, of Kapellerput Conference Venue, in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, offered this observation: "Meetings in the future will become even more about the creation of experiences. Delegates will remember that meeting, and it will have a bigger effect on them."

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Coming up in February 2019...

Social Media: Getting Personal

There Social media platforms have revolutionized the hotel industry. Popular sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube and Tumblr now account for 2.3 billion active users, and this phenomenon has forever transformed how businesses interact with consumers. Given that social media allows for two-way communication between businesses and consumers, the emphasis of any marketing strategy must be to positively and personally engage the customer, and there are innumerable ways to accomplish that goal. One popular strategy is to encourage hotel guests to create their own personal content - typically videos and photos -which can be shared via their personal social media networks, reaching a sizeable audience. In addition, geo-locational tags and brand hashtags can be embedded in such posts which allow them to be found via metadata searches, substantially enlarging their scope. Influencer marketing is another prevalent social media strategy. Some hotels are paying popular social media stars and bloggers to endorse their brand on social media platforms. These kinds of endorsements generally elicit a strong response because the influencers are perceived as being trustworthy by their followers, and because an influencer's followers are likely to share similar psychographic and demographic traits. Travel review sites have also become vitally important in reputation management. Travelers consistently use social media to express pleasure or frustration about their guest experiences, so it is essential that every review be attended to personally. Assuming the responsibility to address and correct customer service concerns quickly is a way to mitigate complaints and to build brand loyalty. Plus, whether reviews are favorable or unfavorable, they are a vital source of information to managers about a hotel's operational performance.  The February Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to effectively incorporate social media strategies into their businesses.