The Challenges and Rewards of Last-Minute Meetings

By Brian McSherry Chief Operating Officer, M&R Hotel Management | September 23, 2018

The group segment historically has represented a key source of advance bookings for the lodging industry. The increasing phenomenon of last-minute meetings, however (events arranged in 30 days or less), is upsetting that traditional model in multiple respects.

Meeting planners traditionally booked events far in advance to secure event space and guest rooms and give attendees plenty of advance notice so they could block their calendars and plan to attend. For hotels, those signed contracts provided an assured base of business far into the future.

A group booking, after all, is rarely just about a room block. For full-service hotels, such a booking entails additional revenue, primarily banquets and coffee breaks, not to mention conference room rentals, room-service charges, spa fees and bar tabs.

Short-term group bookings are challenging for meeting planners and attendees as well as host hotels. For meeting planners, an expedited timetable means several months of work must be completed in as little as one. Attendees may have to reschedule previous commitments and pay higher-priced airfare.

Shortened Lead Time

A significant driver of last-minute meetings is the rapid change that continues to transform the corporate world. In that environment, three or six months lead time is considered generous, a year a luxury.

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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.