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 June 2019...

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.